Sunday, January 6, 2008

Missouri Liberty Coalition

Coalition wants accountability from city

Many attendees at group's first meeting say Springfield needs new leadership.

Mike Penprase

In the wake of recent audits of city government and City Utilities, residents who attended Saturday's first meeting of the Missouri Liberty Coalition said it was time to hold officials' feet to the fires of frustration.

About three dozen attended the meeting Saturday afternoon at the Library Station in north Springfield.

It was called by Tom Martz, a past Libertarian legislative candidate and advocate of the city audit. Participants ranged from retirees to young men wearing Ron Paul T-shirts.

Longtime Springfield resident Ray Clouse said he believes it's time to press for accountability from Springfield officials.

And he's ready to do something about it.

"I don't mind getting dirty," Clouse told the crowd at the library.

"If I get slapped with a mudball, I'll wipe it off."

The Springfield native and resident since 1943, except for four years in the military, pronounced the city's government is at the lowest point he's seen.

"It's pitiful," Clouse said.

Many at the meeting expressed dissatisfaction with City Council members and talked about how to get rid of them, except for one.

Get people with integrity on the council, and don't wait for an election to bring them on, Mike Paris said.

It might be time to start a recall effort, he said.

"Should the focus of this thing be you fight individual battles, or remove them all?" he asked.

Councilman Doug Burlison is the only council member deserving support, Martz said before Burlison appeared at the meeting.

Taking a break outside the session, Burlison said it's obvious a lot of Springfield residents are frustrated with how the city is run.

Burlison said he didn't know what to expect from the meeting Martz and others set up.

"I thought I was walking into the wrong room, to be honest with you," he said. "I think it's really an indication there are a lot of people out there in a silent majority."

Radio personality Vincent David Jericho congratulated people who showed up for the meeting.

Martz said efforts to open up city government by getting more people on boards, committees and other bodies might affect his own political aspirations.

"I don't think I'll be on any of those, ever," he said.

But he is considering a run for City Council, he said during the meeting.

After the meeting, he said he began considering that move for months before he and others formed the nonpartisan coalition.

Some people who came to the meeting to see what would happen said the coalition could be effective if people get involved.

While Greg Sokerka said before the meeting he'd reserve judgment on getting involved, by the end of the 2 1/2-hour session he said it appears the group can get something done.

"It's gone real well for the first get-together," he said. "Informative."

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