Radicals and red herrings
COLUMBIA, Mo 03/06/15 (Beat Byte) -- Missouri State Representative turned Ameren lobbyist Chris Kelly blasted Boone County for Liberty (BCFL) on the KFRU Morning Meeting radio show earlier this week, calling its members "a small group of mostly hard right and hard left radicals."
Kelly also said concerns over his conversion -- from populist Democratic lawmaker to corporate lobbyist for one of the Midwest's largest utilities -- were "nothing more than a red herring to distract voters from the central issue: that we need money to repair our infrastructure."
Columbia city government has two propositions on the April ballot asking voters to approve $63 million in bond debt with large stormwater and electric utility rate hikes. Kelly is leading a 17-person campaign supporting the propositions called Foundation for Columbia's Future.
Boone County for Liberty opposes the measures.
Kelly leveled the "small group of radicals" charge responding to a question from this publication about BCFL's central platform: that CoMo City Hall must rebuild trust and ensure accountability BEFORE asking voters for any more money.
"In 2014 alone, four different public cost increases failed to pass at the polls AND a member of the City Council resigned in the face of an embarrassing recall," BCFL spokesperson Sean Reberry said.
Kelly said he knows "no one who has lost trust" in City Hall. Anyone claiming such a crisis of confidence is part of a fringe hard right and hard left element, he insisted. He earlier told the Missourian he did not expect organized opposition to the propositions "because maintaining basic infrastructure 'has nothing to do with politics.'"
If passed, Propositions 1 and 2 will allow city officials to continue ignoring the Columbia City Charter while subsidizing utility infrastructure for developers. The city is required to maintain a so-called "Depreciation Fund" for infrastructure repair and replacement.
But the Depreciation Fund has never been created.
Kelly's group includes Central Missouri Development Council executive director Jim Loveless, who recently replaced Don Stamper; and developer Tom Mendenhall, who last year reportedly withdrew a proposal to name streets in his new subdivision after Confederate Civil War victories. Known as "North Battleground," the 88-lot subdivision is near the high school named for desegregation advocates Eliot and Muriel Battle.
Asked how his selection -- as a corporate utility lobbyist -- to run a campaign selling utility rate hikes would help rebuild trust, "those issues are nothing more than distractions," Kelly answered. The switch from State Rep to lobbyist is "perfectly legal, and has nothing to do with these propositions. It's a red herring."
Known as the "revolving door of politics," the legislator-to-lobbyist conversion may be legal, but it's not ethical, many lawmakers say. The Missouri Senate Rules and Ethics Committee in January unanimously approved a bill requiring legislators to wait at least two years before becoming lobbyists.
Kelly left office Jan. 7 and went to work for Ameren two weeks later, Jan. 21. His first job: helping Ameren pass a bill determining how costs are allocated for electrical infrastructure, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.