Democrats gather at a local labor union hall in Springfield for good bar-b-cue, comraderie and to become acquainted with Democratic candidates on the August 2, 2016 ballot.
Organized chaos is the way one might perceive events promoted by area Democrats. While the media receives notice of an event, we have no expectation of being greeted. Not alone this time we stood exchanging smiles with another local reporter who recognized the same aloofness.
Attorney General Chris Koster was the featured speaker at the Democratic fundraiser that took place at the I.B.E.W. Hall in Springfield on July 12, 2016. One of three Democratic candidates, although the only one in attendance for Missouri governor that includes pastor/activist Eric Morrison and former Kansas City mayor Charles Wheeler. Koster followed short speeches by Democratic candidates for Springfield area Missouri House district seats at an event that was promoted as an All Candidates 2016 Fundraiser.
A $15 per person donation wasn't a high price to pay for good bar-b-cue. Ironically, we overheard more positive comments about the food than most of the candidates' talking points. Actually, it seemed that only a small percentage of the participants even were paying attention, at least until a clone of the actor Robert Redford took the dias.
Charismatic and self-assured is the best description of Koster, pictured at left. Clad in designer jeans and fiddling a large belt buckle, the current Missouri attorney general leaped into the spotlight to convince the assembled Democratic voters that they needed "to take the moral high ground," recognizing that often they neglect to get their vote heard, especially in a state with a legislature overwhelmingly controlled by members of the Republican Party. An incentive to vote, of course, is accepting the need for a Democratic governor who at least could force a veto override of Republican passed bills that promote pro life but neglect to pay for adequate child care. The vindictiveness of Republicans showed up, Koster reminded everyone, in turning down a large sum of money annually from the federal government for the expansion of Medicaid. Missouri had slashed its Medicaid eligibility for parents to the lowest levels allowed by the federal government in order to help balance the budget.
Regarding that $2 billion check from Washington for healthcare expansion, Koster was incredulous over the Republican response. "They tear it up and throw it in the trash can to send a signal to the man with limited tenure that they don't like the way the Affordable Health Care was passed," Koster said.
Osceola, Mt. Vernon, Farmington, Reynolds County--Koster renumerated these hospital locations that had closed and said that more rural hospitals will close but "$2 billion would keep them open."
While Koster admitted to good parts and bad parts of the Affordable Care Act, he said that "it's time to hold our nose and take the damn money."
"So Many things are not being done, Koster said. "Really important things are not being heard."
In addition to the rural health crisis, Koster listed inadequate school funding and crumbling roads In mentioning the K-12 funding formula meant to ensure every school district in the state receives a basic funding amount necessary to provide an adequate education for each student, Koster said that Republicans lowered the percentage from 3.5% to 3.2% forcing districts to cut band participation, then drama, then art programs.
School districts "can't afford to hire certified teachers" but "substitutes" instead. "Children essentially are being babysat," Koster noted.
"What's left to be cut?" Koster brought up the 36 schools in 15 districts that cut Fridays from the school calendar.
"Sure you can go to school four days a week," Koster said. But he added, "We have reached a gut check moment."
Citing that the neighboring state of Kansas was without "adult leadership," and that tax credits had been "zeroed out...for friends," Koster warned that without the same adult supervision the same dire circumstances could happen here..and not just for Democrats but for Republicans.
"The Jeff City crew does not listen to the needs of their own constituents," (meaning Republican or Democratic) Koster said. "If you ever worked hard the time to do it is now" was his advice.
Photos by Vince Rosati