Friday, May 29, 2009

Missouri Catfish Tags Make Missouri Waters filled with Cash Rewards

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Returning tags to the Conservation Department can get you up to $150

JEFFERSON CITY–Fishing is not something most people do for money. But anglers do love to tell others about their catches, and the Missouri Department of Conservation is willing to pay for your story if you catch one of a few very special catfish.

In its continuing effort to put catfish management on a firm scientific footing, the Missouri Department of Conservation has tagged thousands of blue and flathead catfish in lakes and streams throughout the state. In years past, those tags carried rewards ranging from $25 to $50 for anglers who reported catching tagged catfish. More recently, the agency upped the ante, offering as much as $150 per tagged catfish.

Fisheries biologists have long used tagging to learn how long fish live, how fast they grow, where they go and other useful information that is useful in setting fishing seasons and creel limits. However, tagging alone accomplishes nothing unless anglers report catching tagged fish. Each time an angler finds a tag on a catfish and calls the number printed on it, fisheries managers get a clearer picture of fish population dynamics. The more data points, the clearer the picture of fish population dynamics.

The percentage of tagged fish caught and reported by anglers gives biologists a rough idea of what percentage of the overall fish population is caught by anglers each year. Estimating harvest rates is very helpful when establishing fishing regulations.

Tag returns from anglers can underestimate the actual harvest, however. Some anglers are glad to report tagged fish in return for information they receive about the fish they caught. For others, however, even a $25 reward is not enough incentive to make a phone call and mail in a tag. Determining non-returns is a key part of every fish tagging study. So is estimating the number of non-returns accurately.

To get a better handle on the number of non-returns, the Conservation Department offers a $150 reward for some tags. The assumption is that almost every angler will return a tag for that amount. Comparing the rate of return on $25 and $150 tags will give researchers a good idea what percentage of fish with $25 tags are not reported when anglers catch them.

Conservation Department workers have tagged more than 7,000 flathead and blue catfish combined that are 12 inches and larger in recent years. Most of those tags have rewards of $25. The reward amount and the phone number to call are printed on the tags. Anglers also need to report when, where and how they caught each fish, along with its length and whether they kept or released the fish.

The “dangler” tags are small plastic ovals attached just under the dorsal fin on top of fishes’ backs. Tagged catfish are swimming in parts of the Fabius, Gasconade, Grand, Lamine, Marmaton, Platte, South Grand rivers, the upper Mississippi River near Hannibal and the Missouri River around the mouths of the Platte, Grand, Lamine and Gasconade rivers.

“Anglers don’t have to keep a fish to get the reward,” said Resource Scientist Zach Ford, who oversees the catfish harvest evaluation project. “If they catch a tagged flathead catfish and choose to release it, all they have to do is clip off the tag and mail it in. They get the reward marked on the tag, along with a letter describing when and where the fish was tagged. They get the tag back, too. Some people like to have them for keepsakes.”

To learn more about the Conservation Department’s catfish management work, visit www.mdc.mo.gov/7228, and click on “How we manage them.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

Eckersley lawsuit against former Governor Matt Blunt's administration settled

Released by Missouri Attorney General's Office

Jefferson City, Mo. - The final issues related to the Scott Eckersley lawsuit against five members of the former gubernatorial administration have been settled for $500,000. It is important to note that the parties to this settlement agreement continue to vigorously defend the validity of their various positions.

There have been significant expenses associated with the lawsuit. To date, $1,348,952.07 has been paid to defense attorneys from the State Legal Expense Fund. Continuing the litigation through trial would likely mean additional significant expenses.

Consequently, a settlement is in the best interest of the taxpayers. As part of today's agreement, defendants Rich AuBuchon, Richard Chrismer, Henry Herschel, Ed Martin, and Governor Matt Blunt, and plaintiff Scott Eckersley issued the following statement:

Joint Statement of the Parties

The lawsuit in this case was filed following the termination of Scott Eckersley's employment by the Office of the Governor, State of Missouri. Based on the claims and defenses asserted by both plaintiff and defendants, all of the parties strongly believe in the merits of their positions. However, for various reasons including the cost of continuing to litigate this matter through trial, all of the undersigned parties to the Release agree that settling the case for the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00) on behalf of the defendants and the State Legal Expense Fund, in exchange for full and complete release of all claims asserted, is in the best interests of the taxpayers of the State of Missouri.

Missouri Lt. Gov Peter Kinder - Memorial Day Dispatch

Memorial Day – 2009
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder
Today marks the 141st observance of Memorial Day in these United States of America.
This national day of remembrance was first held in 1868 when veterans of the Civil War
designated one day in May to honor "the memory of the heroic dead."
You may remember that Memorial Day used to occur on 30th day of May. It wasn’t until
1968 that the day was moved to the last Monday of the month. The significance of May
30th was an important date in the foundation of this holiday. The veterans of the Civil
War, America’s deadliest conflict, did not want the memory of their fallen comrades to
coincide with any reminiscence of conflict. And so May 30th was chosen as an
appropriate memorial as it DID NOT mark the anniversary of any battle. It was a day
that embodied peace in very tumultuous times. And that day of peace was a fitting
tribute, for peace is what all soldiers fight for.
Today, thousands of Americans are protecting that peace at home and abroad. They
serve in times of peace, and today in times of war. Many Missourians have defended that
peace, and those we honor today have died for it.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower said that, “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions,
the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed…” Today, my challenge to
all of us is the daily refreshing of freedom and liberty in our own hearts.
Today, our nation continues a fight for freedom’s cause abroad. This is a noble cause
that many have given their lives for. The nobility of patriotism is not a characteristic that
is taught, but rather one that is instilled deep within the heart and soul of a patriot.
Today, we recognize the patriots of our freedom. In times of war and peace, these
soldiers stood ready to serve for the cause of justice and sovereignty. This was not an
easy task, nor one with great accolades or recognition. But patriots stand tall. They don’t
need praise or ovation. Their service often can go unseen. To a patriot, there is only one
duty; the call to service.
These selfless acts of courage have solidified our nation’s grasp of freedom for every
man, woman and child. Regardless of race, creed, gender or class, the principles of our
independence remain rooted in the lives of those who defend it.
Freedom now finds defense from a new generation of Americans. These young men and
women proudly answer the call to serve their homeland in a time of uncertainty and war.
They carry with them the same love of country and sense of duty of those who wore the
American uniform long ago. To these young Americans we owe our deepest gratitude
and thanks.
Within the foundation of patriotism I believe we see the pulse of devotion and morality.
Within that devotion, we find valor.
2
It is our task to honor all who have served. Let us honor the defenders of America today,
and for generations to come, who with the same conviction and fortitude will protect
liberty’s cause from those enemies, foreign and domestic. Let us also honor the families
who have sent their husbands, fathers, mothers and daughters to protect the freedom and
security of this great nation.
May we keep the memory of our heroes alive and well with the same devotion and
patriotism to this great land that we all share. We are free by the grace of the Almighty,
and the devotion of soldiers of valor.
It was President Lincoln who, while commemorating the lives of those who were lost in
the battle of Gettysburg, charged our nation to never forget freedoms cost, and the
sacrifices made:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that
from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the
people, shall not perish from the earth.”
May God continue to bless America.
Lt. Governor Peter D. Kinder serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Veteran’s
Affairs.
State Transfers Federal Stabilization Funds into General Revenue

JEFFERSON CITY - The Office of Administration announced today - May 21- that it will move $250 million of federal stabilization revenue into the general revenue fund. The $250 million will be used to accelerate payment of 2008 individual income tax refunds that are currently pending. By moving this available revenue into the general revenue fund, the state will be able to pay taxpayers for virtually all 2008 individual tax refunds that were received by the Department of Revenue.

The $250 million federal stabilization revenue is from enhanced federal Medical Assistance reimbursement on expenses already paid by the State

Missouri Office of Administration Release

Monday, May 18, 2009

Missouri Attorney General files suit against Suzuki Motor Corporation

From Missouri Netizen
Released by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's Office

Kansas City, Mo. --Attorney General Chris Koster today filed suit against American Suzuki Motor Corporation, charging the company with deceiving consumers with advertisements that promised no or low monthly payments “for life” that did not deliver as promised. The Attorney General said Suzuki encouraged a local dealership to air an advertising campaign that Suzuki knew was a misrepresentation and deceived consumers into buying Suzuki vehicles.
According to Koster, Suzuki Corporation urged the local dealership, Legend Suzuki, to air advertisements in the Kansas City area that promised consumers they could buy new Suzuki vehicles at no or low monthly rates “for life,” not disclosing that the deal only covered ten months to a year, and that consumers would have to re-qualify for the deal at the end of the initial period. In fact, most consumers were not able to obtain financing or refinancing at that time, and ended up having to pay high monthly payments or default on their loan and lose the car if they could not afford the payment. Most consumers whose cars were repossessed ended up with badly damaged credit.

The Attorney General said Suzuki Corporation knew the deceptive ads had caused consumer complaints when they were used earlier by a car dealership in South Carolina.

“It is outrageous for a company to air advertisements that so purposefully tricked consumers,” Koster said. “Suzuki Motors knew the ads were deceptive. Suzuki knew they were making promises they had no intention of keeping. It is time for Suzuki to make this right with the people who bought their cars in good faith.”

Koster said about 120 Missourians purchased new Suzuki cars in the time frame the deceptive advertisements were running, from May 2007 until January 2008.

In August 2008 the Attorney General’s office filed suit against the dealership’s owner, Chad Franklin. Subsequent evidence led to today’s suit against the corporation, charging that Suzuki knew the advertisements had led to consumer complaints, yet encouraged the dealership to run them.

“In fact,” Koster said, “Suzuki helped the dealership pay to run these ads, even though the company knew the advertisements they were paying for were deceptive.”

Koster’s lawsuit seeks to stop Suzuki from any similar advertising, order Suzuki to provide restitution for all customers affected by the deceptive ad campaign and to pay civil penalties and court costs.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Senator Jack Goodman Op-Ed "Spending into Oblivion"


Each year, one of the most important duties of the legislature is to carefully spend for essential state programs and services the money government takes from our families in the form of taxes. This week, the Senate and House chambers were dominated by talk of the fiscal year 2010 budget as the constitutional deadline of 6 p.m., May 8th inched closer. Thursday evening, the legislature passed a $23 billion operating budget. This year has been unique because of the more than $4 billion of federal “stimulus” money available for the state budget process.


Unfortunately, this extra money, which represents a long-term tax burden on generations of future Americans, ignited a budget struggle between those who wish to exercise fiscal prudence and those who want to spend it as quickly as possible on pet projects. You can almost see the smoke coming out of the suits in the capitol as this federal taxpayer money burns holes in some lawmakers’ pockets.


In the budget process, I voted for the bills that were required to maintain the essential operation of government, although there were some components I did not entirely support.


I voted against House Bills 21 and 22. House Bill 21 contained nearly $2.6 billion in spending mandated by the federal government in exchange for “stimulus” dollars. Rather than truly stimulating the economy and promoting a climate where Missourians can create jobs, this bill included chunks of taxpayer money for such ridiculous items as giveaways to fish farmers. While the bill did contain some worthy expenditures, the good was outweighed by inappropriate federal mandates. Furthermore, the federal government has not even created some of the regulations that will govern the use of this money. Certainly, it seems we should wait until we know all of the strings that will be attached to the money before we spend it.


Additionally, I was opposed to the bill because the debt created by the federal “stimulus” package will be a burden to be repaid by generations who are not even born yet. I am also concerned about the fiscal problems this will create for our state when this one time federal money is gone. Unfortunately, the bill was passed by the Senate after long and heated debate.


In recent years, under careful and wise fiscal management, Missouri has successfully gone from huge budget shortfalls to huge budget surpluses by controlling the growth of spending. Some of the spending in HB 21 is misleadingly labeled as one-time expenditures, when it will actually create an expectation for ongoing spending among those receiving services. We should not allow the overgrown federal government to corrupt Missouri’s responsible fiscal restraint by bribing the state into excessive spending that can have only two possible results: (1) Missouri taxpayers will be called upon to fund the growth in government after the one-time federal money is gone or (2) Missourians who have become dependent on overgrown programs will be cut when the one-time federal money is gone. The first option is irresponsible. The second option is just plain cruel, since we already know it is one-time money.


The budget process culminated in the discussion of HB 22, a discretionary (so-called) “stimulus” spending bill. HB 22 contained some legitimate government expenditures for needed infrastructure, maintenance and construction projects that, standing on their own, I support. Unfortunately, this bill, with a price tag of more than $300 million, also became a package of pet pork projects that I could not condone.


We have more than two years to decide how to spend the federal “stimulus” dollars. Yet, approximately 75% of it was rapidly spent this week. I support taking a more responsible approach, holding more back until we determine if state revenues will continue to decline in the next fiscal year. We need to be sure we can meet government’s obligations to its taxpayers and guard against any attempts to raise taxes, especially in bad economic times. I am concerned that, if the budget is too tight next year and this “stimulus” money has been squandered on pork, we will be faced with the prospect of failing to meet our obligations to taxpayers and some may take advantage of that opportunity to advocate for tax increases. Rest assured, I will not support raising job-destroying taxes, but I think we should be proactive in guarding against that situation.


I was also opposed to HB 22 because it included $50 million dollars in giveaways to two private companies. While I support government policy that promotes job creation through creating strong infrastructure and an educated workforce, eliminating undue regulation and minimizing taxes, I do not believe it is appropriate for the legislature to take money from taxpayers’ hard-earned paychecks then select individual companies to receive those dollars. Additionally, there is no guaranty that jobs created by such an artificial manipulation of the free market will be sustainable after the one-time infusion of government money is gone. Unfortunately, HB 22 passed over my “no” vote, as well.

Branson Airport in the News

At 9:30 a.m. Monday, a Sun Country flight from Minneapolis became the first commercial flight to arrive at the Branson Airport....

The terminal is decorated with a lot of wood, in a traditional Ozarks style.

It features a small indoor water feature, a Bass Pro Shops gift shop and a Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant.

"This is very unique," said Frank Bucar of Duluth, Minn. "This doesn't look commercial. It makes me feel at home."

Stan Gadek, CEO of Sun Country Airlines, was on hand for the first flights. He said the airport would give a boost to Branson.

"Airports are economic engines," he said. "When this airport gets going, you'll see a lot of growth in this area."

Cliff Sain Springfield News-Leader - Full Story
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KSPR on One of the First Flight out of Branson

The first plane took off from the Branson Regional Airport, headed for Atlanta.

This flight linked the country's first private commercial airport with the world's largest.

KSPR's Joe Daues took the flight to see if the skies were friendly.

KSPR Full Story + Video

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First Commercial Flight Flown By Sun Country

The Branson Airport, the first privately developed and operated commercial service airport in the US, officially began operations Monday by welcoming its first commercial flight. Sun Country Airlines flight SY509, with passengers from Minneapolis/St. Paul, touched down at 0900.

To mark the occasion, arriving passengers were presented with gift bags from the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber/CVB. In addition, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the gate area of the new Branson Airport terminal. Those taking part in the ceremony were Branson Airport executives, Sun Country Airlines officials and Branson area dignitaries. "It's an honor to be the first airline to land a plane at this beautiful new facility," said Stan Gadek, Chairman and CEO of Sun County Airlines. "With the addition of this new market, customers in the Twin Cities and Branson will now enjoy low fares and the award-winning customer service we are known for." Sun Country Airlines is offering an introductory fare between Branson and Dallas of $29 each way. The offer is good through Wednesday, May 13....

Aero-News - Full Story

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To the sounds of Lee Greenwood performing his hit "God Bless the U.S.A.," AirTran Airways launched its new service between Branson, Mo., and Milwaukee Monday.

The daily roundtrip flight connects Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport with the new Branson Airport, which celebrated its grand opening Monday. AirTran also launched service between Branson and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Monday.

"AirTran Airways makes flying to the Branson area easy and affordable," said John Kirby, senior director of strategic planning for AirTran Airways. "Branson is a popular family friendly destination, with more than 8 million visitors a year. Our quality low fare nonstop service from Atlanta and Milwaukee offers connecting access to more than 50 destinations, including Puerto Rico and popular vacation areas in Florida."

AirTran is offering introductory fares for Branson-Milwaukee flights of $49 each way. Travel on introductory fares must be booked at least a week in advance by June 3 for travel through June 10.

Milwaukee Business Journal Full Story

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(Branson, MO) -- Over the weekend, 50,000 people watched a three day air show on the grounds of the new Branson Airport. Less than 24 hours after the show ended, the real show began.

"It's unbelievable," says Gene Conrad, Branson Airport's Deputy Director of Marketing and Air Service Development. "After only two years of construction and a day after a very successful air show, we just had our first flight depart to Dallas on Sun Country Airlines."

The first flight out of the new Branson Airport was the 9:40 a.m. flight to Dallas. It took off without a hitch. With the ceremonial ribbon cutting, passengers began arriving and departing. Air Tran and Sun Country airlines fly in and out of the city, providing service to more than 50 destination.

"Branson is a tourist, leisure destination," says John Kirby, Air Tran's Director of Network Planning. "So we think there's a good fit because we're both looked at as values."

Stan Gadek, President of Sun Country Airlines says he's thrilled to provide service to Branson.........

While they waited, passengers explored the 58,000 square foot terminal with an Ozarks theme. It sports a Famous Dave's Bar-B-Q restaurant and bar and a Bass Pro Shops gift shop. Conrad says much of the wood inside the terminal came from a buggy factory that dates back to 1871.
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To Atlanta, Springfield tickets are running $134 roundtrip; Branson is $145. Dallas from Springfield and Branson will set you back $58. Milwaukee from Springfield is $98; Branson is $85. New York City from Springfield is $180; Branson is $205. And Los Angeles from Springfield is $298; Branson is $295. All of these fares are roundtrip, before taxes and fees.

Ozarks First - Full Story

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BRANSON, Mo. – The first plane load of Texans to arrive in Branson on Sun Country Airlines on Monday will be making aviation history. Not as momentous as the Wright Brothers, but in the annals of American airports, they will be remembered as the first customers of the nation's only privately funded commercial airport.

Branson Airport, two years and $155 million in the making, is alone among the country's 552 airports to offer commercial air service without receiving any federal funding. Steve Peet, a Connecticut businessman, heads a group of investors who saw potential in the popular tourist town that, while receiving more than 8 million visitors each year, had no airport with scheduled airline service.

"There's a lot of curiosity about this project, whether it can work or not," said Peet. He says trying the unknown has been more fun than he anticipated. "I'm romanced by it and having a great time, but it's a business and a business opportunity first."

The idea of some private involvement in public airports is not new. In 1996, Congress passed legislation allowing a limited number of already existing airports to solicit private investors.

"Clearly Branson will be a test case from a commercial perspective," said Randy Fiertz, director of airport compliance and field operations for the Federal Aviation Administration. "If they can make it profitable, there could be other opportunities out there."

So far, only two airports have tried privatization under the plan. Stewart Airport in Newburgh, N.Y., was sold to British investors who, after failing to make a profit, sold the airport back to the public authority in 2007. A plan by Chicago to lease its Midway Airport to a private entity fell through when financing could not be completed. Still, those arrangements differed from Branson because they were public-private ventures that would continue to receive federal funds, and the airports would be bound by the restrictions that accompany them.

"Governments do not permit their privatized major commercial airports to engage in practices that are routine in most other industries," noted Richard L. de Neufville, a professor who specializes in airport systems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Freed from the rules that accompany government funding, the owners of Branson Airport created a lengthy list of ideas for how to maximize profits at the airport, a list that included selling tourist services in the airport terminal, auctioning naming rights to the airport and offering airlines exclusivity on routes into Branson.

"We're offering airlines the opportunity to come in and try a route that's never been tested and then have the opportunity to grow and prosper with that demand," said Peet.

But restricting competition could result in higher prices down the line according to de Neufville, who has seen it happen in Europe where privatization of airports is common. Peet counters that he's not "looking to tick off" customers.

Sun Country is offering special $29 one-way fares for its thrice-weekly flights from Dallas to Branson for tickets purchased through Wednesday May 13, said airline spokeswoman Wendy Blackshaw. Tickets are good for travel through June 17 and also for Sept 8-29. The regular fare is $69, Blackshaw said.

Christine Negroni, Dallas News

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Dan Reed AP

BRANSON, Mo. — Starting next week, pilots for AirTran and Sun Country airlines will bring the first jetliners filled with paying passengers here to Mid-America's kitschy mecca for country music lovers and budget-conscious family vacationers.

They'll land at the nation's first commercial airport built and operated as a private, for-profit business for which federal, state and local taxpayers paid nothing.

The new $155 million airport carved into a couple of rugged Ozark mountains is called simply Branson Airport. And it's as modest as its name. Its lone 7,140-foot runway can handle most narrow-body jets used on domestic routes, but wide-bodies aren't likely to land on it. Its 58,000-square-foot terminal is about a third of the size of a big suburban supermarket. The terminal has no jet bridges and just four parking spots for jetliners. Passengers will have to exit planes on old-fashioned air stairs.

But unpretentious little Branson Airport could have an outsize effect if it works: It could turn what now is a mostly regional tourist spot with only 7,500 year-round residents into a national destination for vacationers. And it could spur other U.S. cities to consider operating their airports privately, a concept widespread in Europe and Latin America and catching on in Asia.

"We've got everything you could want in a vacation destination — all at pretty moderate prices — except our own airport. And now we're getting that," says Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, a privately owned $2 billion-a-year chain of sporting goods stores focused on hunting, fishing, camping and boating that is headquartered in nearby Springfield, Mo. "It's going to open up Branson to a whole new set of people all over the country who would love to come here but really haven't been able to get here before."

Beginning in the 1960s, with a troupe called the Baldknobbers, which mixed corn-pone humor with traditional country and bluegrass music, Branson has grown as a center for live music.

Today, it has 52 theaters that feature traditional country acts, crooners such as Andy Williams and aging pop stars such as Tony Orlando. The Osmonds, the Hughes Brothers, the Duttons and the Lawrence Welk tribe are among the musical "families" who operate year-round theaters or are headliners.

New theme parks have joined the long-running The Shepherd of the Hills drama at an outdoor theater. Three big outlet malls make Branson the third-largest outlet-shopping venue in the USA. There are three lakes: Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals.

"We've got more options than anywhere I know of, including Las Vegas," says Morris, whose company is betting heavily on Branson's growth with a big new Bass Pro store downtown and the luxurious Big Cedar Lodge resort and executive conference center on Table Rock Lake 10 miles south of town.

Getting to Branson

But getting here has never been easy. About 95% of Branson's visitors historically have come by car or bus. The nearest airport, in Springfield, is a 52-mile drive.

Glenn Patch realized that more than a decade ago. The former magazine publisher who fell in love with Branson in the early 1990s and acquired 11,000 acres of land — 900 of which are where the new airport sits — figured that if Branson were going to become something bigger, it had to be more accessible.

But voters twice rejected paying for an airport. So in 2000, Patch hooked up with Aviation Facilities Co. (AFCO) of McLean, Va., and they devised plans to build a private airport. In 2003, Steve Peet, a former bond trader and AFCO investor, became a passionate promoter of the idea and led a group of investors, including a unit of Citigroup, that in 2005 formed Branson Airport LLC. AFCO stayed on to manage construction of the airport, and Peet has stayed on to become the airport's CEO.

The Branson promoters' idea is largely a new one in the USA. Most airports have been built with taxpayer dollars or by quasigovernmental authorities using public financing or government-backed vehicles such as bonds. But it's an idea that is catching on.

Going private has advantages. It would enable cities desperate for better air service to short-circuit the slow and frustrating political, regulatory and financial processes involved in building or expanding airports. It also would let them unlock the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in their airports by selling them, doing long-term lease deals or letting for-profit groups operate them.

More than a dozen cities, such as Philadelphia, New Orleans and Long Beach, are exploring some form of privatization

Most recently, Chicago struck a deal to sell Midway Airport to an investment group led by a unit of Citigroup for $2.5 billion, only to see the deal collapse last month. Investors cited tough credit market conditions that made it impossible to secure the loans needed to complete the transaction. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is expected to put Midway back on the market, even if it means lowering the price to $1.5 billion.

Skeptics point out obstacles

"It's a copy-cat business," says Oris Dunham, the retired head of Airports Council International, the global trade group for airport operators. "I don't think airport privatization will go crazy in this country. But if Branson works, it'll probably give a few other cities the courage to try it."

Dunham cautions that public officials who sit on airport boards around the nation like their positions. "When it comes time to make the deal, most won't want to give up that power," he says.

Industry consultant Mike Boyd advises small and midsize airports on service development matters, and he's more skeptical.

Branson Airport is not likely to be the vanguard of airport privatization, he says. It's too hard disentangling existing airports from their government financial and legal tethers, he says, and financial prospects at most airports probably aren't good enough to justify the risk.

In Branson's case, Boyd says, the local population is too small, and the region's attractions aren't sufficient to consistently generate sufficient traffic for profitable air service.

"I hope they can do it. I wish them well. I just don't see how it's going to work," he says.

Backers: It's 'going to work'

Peet, the Branson Airport CEO, says the key to success is attracting airlines, especially low-fare carriers, to bring value-seeking tourists from distant parts of the country.

Branson already draws more than 60% of its visitors from more than 300 miles away, and a surprisingly large number from distant cities. Research by the Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau shows that 554 people a day come from the Minneapolis area, 107 a day from the Atlanta area and 598 a day from Dallas/Fort Worth, a seven-hour drive away. Those are the first cities with non-stop air service to Branson.

"There are 5.4 million people working hard to get here," Peet says. "How many more would come here if we made it easier and affordable for them?"

The big network airlines are waiting and watching. But Peet has used the airport's exclusivity rights to attract two discount carriers: AirTran and Sun Country. Because Branson Airport did not accept any government money, it can pick and choose the airlines it will let in.

Another tool at Peet's disposal: low operating costs that reduce carriers' risk. Airlines serving Branson won't have to hire their own ground staff or pay conventional landing fees. Airport personnel will do all the ground chores, such as processing passengers and loading bags. Landing fees will be based on the number of passengers airlines bring in, not the weight of the aircraft, as is usually the case.

Branson Airport, meanwhile, will be paid $8.24 by the city for each arriving passenger, ensuring a stream of income for 30 years. It will be augmented by revenue from aircraft fuel sales and a cut from every transaction at the airport, whether it's the purchase of a sandwich in the restaurant, the sale of fishing lures in a small Bass Pro Shop that'll operate in the waiting area, or a percentage from each car rented by Enterprise, which has exclusive car rental rights.

"If we're not handling 225,000 to 250,000 passengers a year three years down the road, then we'll be in a tough situation," Peet concedes. "But I don't think that's going to be the case.

"We've got a great market to sell. We've got significant capital reserves. And we'll have all these other streams of revenue."

Peet also has set expectations low. Reno gets about 2.5 million air travelers a year, or nearly 68,500 travelers a day, he notes. Discount king Southwest Airlines has 38 flights a day there. But to reach Peet's goal of 250,000 passengers a year, Branson Airport needs only 685 passengers — five to six planeloads a day.

"Reno's got beautiful scenery. Branson's got beautiful scenery. They've got a lake. We've got three lakes. They've got lots of hotel rooms. Branson's got lots of hotel rooms. They're pretty isolated. Branson's pretty isolated. The only thing they've got that we don't are the casinos, and a lot of people don't want to be around gambling.

"What we're doing is going to work."

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By Rob Lovitt
In Branson, Mo., where a brand-spankin’ new airport is set to open May 11, it’s the smell of fresh-cut cedar, weathered barn wood and stone-cut dust as teams of construction workers race against the clock. Overlaying it all, you can almost catch a whiff of the intense anticipation that surrounds this groundbreaking project.



Full Story On MSNBC




United States Department of Agriculture Reports Positive Yields For Missouri Farmers

Missouri Report From USDA May 12, 2009

Missouri Wheat Yields Above Average

(COLUMBIA, MO) - “Missouri wheat producers are expecting another good crop as the mild winter weather and ample spring rains are pointing to yields well above the 10 year average, " said Gene Danekas, Director, Missouri Agricultural Statistics. “Some drier weather and warm temperatures are needed to complete the crop.”

The State production of winter wheat is forecast at 38.3 million bushels, based on conditions as of May 1, 2009, 31 percent below the 2008 crop but 1 percent above 2 years ago. Yields in the State are expected to average 51 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from the 2008 yield and 8 bushels per acre above 2007. Harvested acres are forecast at 750,000 acres, down 35 percent from the 2008 acreage level and 15 percent below 2007.

Missouri Hay Stocks Second Largest on Record

May 1 hay stocks in Missouri at 2,050,000 tons, or 23 percent of production, are up from 900,000 tons last year and 625,000 tons in 2007. After the second largest hay crop on record and a mild winter, hay supplies are well above the 10-year average May 1 level of over 1.20 million tons. This is the second largest May 1 hay stocks on record.

U.S. Winter Wheat Production Down 20 Percent

Winter wheat production is forecast at 1.50 billion bushels, down 20 percent from 2008. Expected area for harvest as grain or seed totals 34.0 million acres, down 14 percent from last year. Based on May 1 conditions, the U.S. yield is forecast at 44.2 bushels per acre, down 3.0 bushels from the previous year.

Hard Red production is down 16 percent from a year ago to 871 million bushels. Soft Red production is down 31 percent and totals 422 million bushels. White production totals 208 million bushels, down 5 percent from a year ago. Of the White production total, 20.8 million bushels are Hard White and 188 million bushels are Soft White.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Carnahan Recovers Over $145,000 for Missouri Investors Caught in Foreign Currency Trading Scheme

Press Release Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan

Jefferson City, MO – Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s office today secured $146,050 in restitution for eight investors who suffered heavy losses when their broker, an agent of Princor Financial Services Corporation, inappropriately placed their savings in a foreign currency trading program.

Princor, with an office in Chesterfield, has agreed to reimburse investors as a result of the firm’s failure to supervise one of its agents, Dorian Saunders, and his outside trading activity.

“During these tough economic times, investors should always double check to make sure the investments they are getting into are legitimate,” said Carnahan. “I am pleased that we were able to stop this scheme and get these investors their savings back.”

Beginning in early 2007, Saunders opened accounts for some of his Princor clients at a foreign currencies trading firm run by his brother. Saunders recommended that these clients cash in investments that he had previously sold them and invest that money in foreign currency trading. The eight clients who invested in foreign currencies through Saunders eventually lost all of their funds.

“I was told that I would get regular checks in the mail, but months went by and nothing ever showed up” said Shirley, a St. Louis area investor. “I trusted him when he promised this was a good investment. Now I know that I should always check it out first.”

The consent order entered today finds that Princor was aware of Saunders’ outside foreign currencies trading, and requires Princor to pay back all of the funds lost by the eight impacted investors, six of which reside in Missouri.

“I feel like I was preyed on by my broker,” said Michael, an investor from Bourbon, Mo. “I was cleaned out of $7,000 and left with a balance of 25 cents. It’s good to know that this incident is not going unpunished and that the company is taking responsibility for its employee.”

In November, Saunders was barred from the securities industry. Saunders’ “selling away” or completing transactions for Princor clients outside the firm’s books and records is specifically identified as a dishonest or unethical business practice under Missouri law. In addition to paying full restitution to the investors, Princor has also agreed to make a $75,000 payment to the Missouri Investor Education and Protection Fund, and to pay the costs of the Division’s investigation.

For more information regarding investments and fraud protection, visit the Secretary of State’s online Missouri Investor Protection Center at www.MissouriSafeSavings.com or call the toll free Investor Protection Hotline at 1-800-721-7996.

Carnahan Reminds Missourians that Program can Help them Feel “Safe At Home”

A column by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan

Just one year ago, in April of 2008, there were almost 3,000 reports of domestic violence in Missouri alone. Survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, rape and stalking have enough to face, they shouldn’t have to worry about their assailant finding their address on a government document or piece of mail. Through the Safe at Home program, my office has helped more than 350 men, women and children find some sense of security as they continue to live their lives.

The Safe at Home program provides participants a designated address to use when creating new records with state and local government agencies and the courts. In addition, it allows them to have their first class, legal and certified mail from these entities forwarded to them confidentially. These services limit an assailant’s ability to access public information that could reveal the new location of a survivor who is in the program.

It might surprise some of you to find that those interested in becoming part of the Safe at Home program come from all walks of life. They can be women or men, company executives or factory workers. They can be anyone – any age, any race, and any social status. That’s because domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are not problems that discriminate, and we want to help all those who are affected.

This week is Crime Victims Rights Week. I encourage everyone to not only learn about this important topic but to share this knowledge. Unfortunately, each of us has probably known someone that needed help getting out of a bad situation. When my office hears stories about the persistent abuse and harassment that program participants have received in the past, it becomes obvious that this program makes a real difference in people’s lives. In some cases, survivors of domestic violence have had their abusers track them down in several different locations and even follow them across state lines. Safe at Home helps deter this from happening in Missouri.

One Safe at Home program participant recently told us, “I’ve been hiding out for years and your program will help me just live my life.”

The Safe at Home program has more than 400 application assistants across the state and that number continues to grow. Several law enforcement agencies now carry information about the program and many shelters, schools and hospitals also provide information.

All of us need to do our part to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. If you or someone you know could benefit from this program, please visit our website to find an application assistant in your area. Too many Missourians have become victims of continued abuse, and this is one way we can put a stop to it and maybe even help save lives.

To learn more about Safe at Home Address Confidentiality Program, visit www.MoSafeAtHome.com.

Attorney General Addresses Craigslist Regarding Prostitution

Jefferson City, Mo. -- Attorney General Chris Koster will meet with representatives of craigslist Tuesday in New York City to outline his concerns about advertisements for illegal erotic activities such as prostitution on craigslist. Koster will begin negotiations toward an agreement with the company to eliminate ads for prostitution on the site. Koster is representing a group of the nation’s Attorneys General at the meeting, along with the Attorneys General from Connecticut and Illinois.

“craigslist is allowing advertisements for illegal activities like prostitution on its site,” Koster said. “It is blatant. It is irresponsible. It is illegal.

“craigslist is responsible for the types of advertisements it allows, and it is imperative that craigslist agree to tougher restrictions and to remove ads for illegal activities from its site.”

Koster said his office has been investigating the site and has found many instances where advertisements remain on the site even after being “flagged” as illegal.

“Our investigators found advertisements that clearly were offering sex-for-money or seeking a sex-for-money relationship on craigslist’s Kansas City, St. Louis, Columbia/Jefferson City and Springfield sites,” Koster said. “These arrangements advertised are not only illegal but dangerous, and we aim to stop this type of advertising in Missouri.”

Attorney General Koster announces an additional $155 million in tobacco-settlement money for Missouri

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's Office Press Release

--Again, urges legislature to pass tougher laws
on foreign tobacco manufacturers--

Jefferson City, Mo. -- Attorney General Chris Koster today said Missouri received payments of $155,768,810.48 in tobacco-settlement money in April. This brings Missouri's total receipts from the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement to $1,548,518,684.96.

"Governor Nixon and other Attorneys General struck an historic agreement with Big Tobacco in 1998," Koster said. "As Missouri's Attorney General I will continue to support this agreement and to encourage the state to continue providing resources from the settlement to prevent young people from using tobacco."

The Attorney General used the occasion to renew his call for the General Assembly to pass tougher legislation on foreign tobacco manufacturers. The other 45 states that participated in the settlement have since enacted additional laws to aid in their enforcement, particularly against foreign tobacco manufacturers that are difficult to prosecute. Although bills were introduced in both the House and Senate this session, for the fifth time in seven years, Missouri has failed to enact the additional enforcement legislation.

Missouri currently faces a national arbitration on whether the state diligently enforced its laws relating to the 2003 settlement payment, and will likely face similar challenges for each subsequent year. A ruling against Missouri could result in the potential loss of the state's annual settlement payments of approximately $140 million for years to come.

"Let me be clear, the potential exists that Missouri could lose its share of its tobacco-settlement dollars if the national panel finds that Missouri failed to diligently enforce its laws. If this were to occur, it would be one of the greatest wastes of public resources in recent history," Koster said. "I urge the legislature to take action, particularly against foreign manufacturers of contraband cigarettes."

Branson Airport Opens

Branson is ready for international flights as the epic opening of the airport south of Hollister launched this weeken despite some local politicos efforts to thwart the regional airport from opening.

One of the main opponents of the airport, Branson's current Mayor Raeanne Presley fought against the airport but took the spotlight during the opening ceremonies. Though Presley has repeatedly criticized the vision of Branson's former administrators, she was gracious in crediting former Mayor Lou Schaefer during the announcement of Air Tran as the first commercial airline to ink a deal to charter flights into Southern Missouri.

Employees of the airport applauded as the first planes landed carrying Branson Airport's investors and their families as they walked into Famous Dave's in the terminal which has a barn facade complete with a water wheel.

Note: Taney County deserves to give the airshow organizers and airport employees a round of applause for hosting the spectacular event which ensued through the weekend. Pyrotechnics, classic plans, the United States Air Force's best complete with explosions and aerial acrobatics brought crowds to Branson in record numbers.

Military personnel strolled the Branson Landing commenting on the beauty of the area some of which stayed to fix an F-14 which was grounded after technical failure.

We've heard the phrase touted by 417 magazine and echoed by residents, "This changes Everything'. But what does that mean?

Disney has officially stated that they wouldn't come to an area without an airport and perhaps, with 11,000 acres surrounding the airport, we could be ripe for another theme park.

Herschend Family Entertainment undermined Knott's bid for Celebration City which closed this year. As a result Branson's tax revenue will suffer this year. Unfortunately, members of our city council with personal interest in obtaining lobbyist funds hasn't publicly addressed the issue of the fiscal impact of the park's closing.

The privately funded 155 million dollar airport sits in a Transportation Development District (TDD) but is safe from the regional tourism tax which opens possibilities for increased economic development levies.

As conflicts of interest, incestuous business transactions and public funds are laundered for private use to help the careers of Branson Alderman, opportunities could open south. Northern Arkansas counties could easily usher in gambling as the Missouri Legislature is blocked from issuing new licenses in the state.

Hollister itself has a huge opportunity to burst into the 21st century tourism market if they take advantage of the limitations Branson current anti-business environment entails.

The airport makes Branson ripen for future convention business which will help generate theater ticket sales. For many, seeing a Branson show is an afterthought following a business endeavor which routes visitors to an overnight stay in downtown Branson.

The Branson Chamber of Commerce lobbied against a raise in minimum wage as the poverty of Taney County Businesses benefits some local businesses.

Perhaps, the greatest opportunity of all are new routes to bring positive change, new jobs and could open doors for residents most in need.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Warren Buffet Wouldn't Buy A Newspaper at any cost

The Oracle of Omaha has spoken. He wouldn't buy a newspaper at any cost, but what would he buy?