Category Archives: Missouri News

Throwback Thursday: Ferguson Troubles Began in Garden

EDITOR’S NOTE: Three years ago today, I shared news about a man in Ferguson, Mo., — yes, the same town where the Michael Brown incident took place in August 2014 — who was fighting for the right to grow food in his garden without first obtaining permission from the city. Below I share that story again, along with an update and some observations.

Karl Tricamo received a citation for gardening without permission.

On April 23, 2012, Karl Tricamo received a citation from the city of Ferguson, Mo., for gardening without permission.

During World War I and World War II, it was considered one’s patriotic duty to plant a “victory garden” in order to reduce food costs. Doing such a thing today, however, could result in one man having to pay a hefty fine or worse if officials in the backward city of Ferguson, Mo., get their way.

According to a news release from Dave Roland at the Freedom Center of Missouri, Karl Tricamo never imagined that it would be especially controversial when he decided to plant a garden in his yard in order to secure cheap, nutritious, organic produce for his family. Just to be sure, however, he looked up all of the relevant ordinances in the city just north of St. Louis and confirmed that he would not be violating any laws.

Tricamo found that nothing in the ordinances prohibit citizens from growing healthy, organic produce on one’s property. In fact, the city’s zoning ordinances specifically allow residents to cultivate community gardens and urban agricultural uses in residential areas. Whilst most choose to ignore this in lieu of mowing grass for their perfect lawns, the laws defended his right to grow some other sort of leafy greens.

Because he planted the garden in front of his house instead of behind it, Ferguson city officials soon began to pester Tricamo, going so far as suggesting that his garden was illegal. Roland described the chain of events that followed:

In March, shortly after he had tilled the garden in preparation for planting, the city sent a letter commanding that the yard be covered in straw and planted with grass seed – even though nothing in the city ordinances requires yards to be planted with grass or prohibits the planting of a garden on residential property.

Six weeks later city officials sent another letter demanding the removal of the vegetables from his yard because the property was not zoned for “agricultural” use, but of course the relevant section of Ferguson’s zoning ordinances explicitly allows gardens to be grown in residential areas. Then the City sent Mr. Tricamo a notice (below) alleging a violation of Ferguson ordinance number 7-133 – but that ordinance addresses the structural elements of residential buildings such as foundations, walls, windows and doors, stairways, chimneys, gutters, roofs, and buildings’ exterior surfaces. It says nothing about yards.

When Mr. Tricamo confronted the City about this violation notice, they rapidly backtracked and claimed that it had been sent by accident! The City said he should disregard the notice, but have continued to insist that Tricamo’s garden is illegal.

According to Roland, this situation illustrates a common practice among some city officials; when all else fails in their attempt to control citizens’ behavior, they sometimes just make stuff up. Ultimately, it is a shame that things had to go this far. In my opinion, whether someone grows vegetables in their garden or even hires a lawn care professional from to take care of the gardening for them, there should be no legal repercussions for having green fingers. Besides, what are people to do if a tree in their yard grows out of hand and becomes a danger to the house and its occupants? Are we really expecting people not to use services like those found on to solve a problem that needs sorting promptly? Everyone should be entitled to be a keen gardener in their own right. Still, it seems Michael may have to replace his garden of fresh produce with some wpc decking to abide by the law. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; decking can really add a stylish living space to one’s garden.

UPDATE: Barely three weeks after publishing the article above, I received another news release from Roland. Dated July 26, 2012, it contained the paragraph below which summed up the outcome of the case:

The Board of Adjustment took up the matter on Wednesday evening and heard arguments from the City, Mr. Roland, Mr. Tricamo, and several members of the community. In addition to the legal arguments that the Freedom Center advanced, the testimony pointed out the growing movement in favor of organic, locally-grown produce and the well-documented challenges that low-income families face in finding reasonably priced vegetables in grocery stores. In the end, four of the five members of the Board of Adjustment agreed that Ferguson’s zoning laws do not prohibit citizens from growing gardens in residential areas. Ferguson’s residents are free to grow vegetables in their yards as long as they are not violating a specific ordinance or endangering the public health or safety.

In light of events that put Ferguson on the world map for all the wrong reasons some 25 months later, I suspect many city residents and officials wish this gardening fiasco had been the worst of their troubles.

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‘Winning Life’s Lottery’ Requires Hard Work

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is a guest post by Paul R. Hollrah, a resident of Oklahoma who writes from the perspective of a veteran conservative politico and retired corporate government relations executive whose life experience includes having served two terms as a member of the Electoral College. Even if you disagree with him, this piece will make you think long and hard.

Westward view of St. Louis skyline in September 2008.

Westward view of St. Louis skyline in September 2008, 75 years after Paul Hollrah’s birth.

I realize that it may be a bit uncool to dwell too much on one’s own life experiences, but I have a point to make and I hope that I will be forgiven for doing so.

I was born in 1933, in St. Louis County, Mo., in the midst of the Great Depression. My parents, both of whom came from generations of farm families, had sixth-grade educations. Farming was a matter of hard dawn-to-dusk labor, so when children had learned to read, write, and “do their sums,” they were expected to leave school to carry their share of the workload.

When my parents married in 1929, they decided to purchase a small farm, but they had no money and the banks had no money to lend, so their only alternative was to become sharecroppers, giving a one-third share of their crops to our landlord in lieu of rent.

Sharecropping provided our family with a subsistence, but little else. Nearly all of the food on our table was either from our vegetable garden, from farm animals… chicken, turkey, beef and pork… or the rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese, and catfish that my father brought home from his frequent forays into our local forests and rivers. Whatever butter and eggs we didn’t need for our own table was taken to South St. Louis every Saturday and sold to regular customers, door-to-door. But then, when war clouds gathered over Europe and the Pacific in the late 1930s, my father took a job as a pick-and-shovel ditchdigger at 67½ cents an hour, helping to build a new munitions plant under construction at Weldon Spring, Mo.

My older sister and I attended a small one-room brick schoolhouse at Harvester, Missouri, three miles from our home, but when my father decided to give up farming for good in 1941 to work in the defense plants, we left our little red brick schoolhouse and moved to St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis, where we were enrolled at a Lutheran parochial school. And when we completed our primary school education we attended St. Charles High School, a public high school.

I was not a good student and had little interest in high school. However, my parents insisted that if I wanted to get a good job, I had to have a high school diploma. It was the only thing they ever said on the subject. Attending a college or university was never a consideration, so during my four-year high school career I successfully avoided all subject matter related to mathematics and the sciences. I graduated in June 1951, with a GPA of just under 2.0, a C-minus average.

After graduation, I took a job as a “grease monkey,” tow truck driver and mechanics helper at a local automobile dealership, and, months later, I went to work as an assembly line riveter at McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, a major manufacturer of jet fighter planes for the U.S. military.

Then, in July 1953, I received a letter from the president of the United States; it began with the word, “Greetings.” I was drafted into the U.S. Army Aug. 12, 1953, and was trained as a Field Artillery Operations and Intelligence (O&I) specialist. After completing my basic training and my O&I training I was sent to West Germany for 17 months as a member of the post-World War II occupation forces. Upon being honorably discharged in June 1955, I returned to McDonnell Aircraft where I worked as a production control expediter for 18 months.

During that time, as therapy for an injury to my left knee, the result of a “friendly fire” incident during basic training, I took a second job as a ballroom dancing instructor in St. Louis. Those two jobs kept me fully occupied for at least 15 hours each day, five days a week. However, my injury prevented me from adequately performing my day job, so I took a job selling sewing machines and cordless vacuum cleaners in the housing projects of St. Louis. My sales territory included the infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing project where it was absolutely foolhardy for a white man to enter without an armed escort… let alone attempt to repossess a sewing machine or a vacuum cleaner from a black family who’d failed to make their monthly payments.

Finally, in December 1956, I took a job as a draftsman for Laclede-Christy Corporation, a major refractory manufacturer in South St. Louis. My job was to design open-pit strip mines on leases in Missouri and Illinois and to assist the company surveyor in laying out prospecting plans for our drilling crews. It was during the nearly two years that I worked for Laclede-Christy that I developed an interest in surveying, mining engineering, and geology.

In February 1957, I married my ballroom dancing partner, with whom I’d earned an all-St. Louis ballroom championship. However, being unable to afford the rent for a house or an apartment of our own, we were forced to move in with my parents. But then, as the economic recession of 1957-58 worsened, I learned that my job at Laclede-Christy was to be phased out. It was then that I made the decision to “escape” into college, to enroll as a full-time student at the University of Missouri College of Engineering. It was something that my supervisors at Laclede Christy had urged me to do, but I had little or no high school background in science and mathematics. So, during the 1957-58 school year I took two evening courses in Intermediate algebra at Washington University in St. Louis… just to see if I could handle college-level mathematics.

In two semesters of algebra, I earned two Cs. So, in August 1958, armed with nothing but my two Cs and an abundance of hope and determination, I enrolled at the University of Missouri. Since I had no money and no background for the study of engineering, I look back on that decision as the most courageous thing I’ve ever done. After selling everything we owned, except for our clothing and our 1953 Ford, I went to the local Goodwill store and purchased three rooms of kitchen, bedroom, and living room furniture off the junk pile in the alley behind the store for a total of fifty dollars. It was not good furniture; it was on the junk pile for good reason.

In early November 1957, we were blessed with the birth of a beautiful baby boy who was ten months old in August 1958 when we loaded all of our belongings, including our $50 worth of junk furniture, into a U-Haul trailer and moved into a dilapidated three-room tar-paper shack in Columbia, Mo., just across the road from the Missouri Tigers football stadium.

I remember we spent so much time listening to Songs for kids when he was first born. Looking them all up on YouTube now all these years later just makes me so nostalgic, even though times were tough for us back then.

Our only regular income was the $125 I received each month under the Korean G.I. Bill… $27 of which paid our monthly rent. The remainder of our income, earmarked for the next semester’s tuition and books, gasoline, utilities, and insurance, left us with a food budget of only 60 cents a day. After we’d purchased milk and other supplies for the baby we were able to afford only beans, spaghetti, and an occasional bottle of catsup to mitigate the blandness of our starchy diet.

But the biggest shock of all was the difficulty of the course work. I was a 25-year-old veteran with a wife and child to support, and I found myself competing for grades against seventeen and 18-year-olds with four years of engineering prep in their high school careers. I attended class every day, I studied very hard, and I completed every homework assignment. Yet, when mid-term grades were posted during my first semester, I found that I was failing every course.

With no alternative, I developed a radical new study regimen. I was in class at 7:40 every morning and completed my lectures by noon. By 1 p.m., I was home, hitting the books, and I refused to turn the page in a textbook until I thoroughly comprehended everything on that page. I was up every morning at 6 a.m., and I studied for 14 hours a day, every day of the week. It worked. At the end of my freshman year, I found that not only had I turned those Fs around, I was named to the Dean’s Honor Roll.

Our second child was born in January 1960, after which my wife took a night-shift job at the University Medical Center. Each night at 10 p.m., I’d load our sleeping children into the back seat of our Ford and drive my wife to the medical center in time for her 10:30 p.m. shift. After driving home, I’d return our children to their beds and resume studying until 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. After a few hours of sleep, I was up again at 6 a.m., changing diapers and feeding the children. One of my friends told me recently that I should be getting more than 3 hours of sleep really. He told me that after researching what is a hybrid mattress made of, he decided to buy one because of how comfortable it sounded. He recommended that I considered looking into them, he thinks a comfortable mattress might help me to sleep for a little bit longer. For now though, my routine does seem to work. However, it would be nice to get some more sleep every now and then! Anyway, ater dropping the boys off at our babysitter’s home, I’d pick up my wife at 7 a.m. and drive her home so that she could get eight hours of sleep. I was in class at 7:40 a.m., and when I’d completed my morning lecturers, I’d return home to repeat my 14-hour study regimen.

It was our daily routine, and it was brutal. When I entered the university in August 1958, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 153 lb., but when I graduated four years later, in June 1962, I was still 6 ft. tall but weighed only 116 lb. But I have no regrets. During my junior year, I was elected to Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering Honor Society; in 2001, I was elected to the Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni; and in 2012, I was named an Honorary Knight of St. Patrick, receiving the Missouri Honor Award for Distinguished Service in Engineering.

During my junior and senior years, we had a neighbor with three small children whose husband was serving a long prison sentence. And although she was on the public dole, her in-laws often delivered supplies of freshly-butchered beef and pork from their farm… which she promptly tossed into our neighborhood garbage pails because, as she explained, she didn’t like “that old country meat.” When I returned to the university for my 20th class reunion in 1982, our former landlord reminded me that he and his wife had often seen me rooting through those garbage pails with a flashlight, late at night, digging out food with which to feed my family. It was such a painful experience that I had apparently washed it from my memory.

As we drove away that day, my eldest son said, “Dad! You fed us out of garbage cans?” To which I replied, “Yes, Mark, I did. I did whatever I had to do.”

Those were difficult, character-building years. But now, after more than 50 years of unlimited opportunity and exciting challenge, Barack Obama informs me that I’ve played no role in any of that… that I’ve arrived at this stage of my life because I’ve “won life’s lottery.” I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t purchased that lottery ticket.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter. Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same. To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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‘The Financial Coach’ Sentenced to 9 Years in Federal Prison

Federal Judge Ronnie L. White sentenced Bryan C. Binkholder to nine years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release during a sentencing hearing Friday at 10:30 a.m. inside a 10th-floor courtroom at the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in downtown St. Louis. In addition, the judge ordered Binkholder to make full restitution of more than $3 million the court said he owes his victims .

The Financial Coach Show

If the name rings familiar, it’s because Binkholder hosted “The Financial Coach Show” on Saturday afternoons on FM Newstalk 97.1, St. Louis’ only conservative FM radio station, from 2009 until early 2012. when his face appeared on the station’s airstaff listing for the last time during the first week of February 2012. A source told me Binkholder had also bankrolled many of the costs involved in staging the first St. Louis Tea Party event at Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis in 2009, but I could not obtain confirmation of that today.

Binkholder’s sentencing came several weeks after he accepted a plea deal on four counts of committing financial crimes involving real estate investments in St. Louis and Florida, and brings to a close an investigation that began at the state level more than five years ago and later appeared on the radar of federal investigators. After this, hopefully the victims of his crimes can recoup their losses, and choose a better investment to dive into. Some may find the nio shares a good starting point. Still, the question is – how long will he be jailed for?

Attorney Albert Watkins tried to convince Judge White to reduce the number of points levied against Binkholder per federal sentencing guidelines and thereby reduce his sentence, but the judge wasn’t to be persuaded.

While being led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit after the hearing, Binkholder turned toward the gallery – where approximately 60 people were in attendance, including his wife and one of his three children – and told those who had not yet left they would get all of their money back if the government handled things (i.e., the assets involved) properly.

Binkholder’s attorney told the court his client will need a court-appointed attorney to handle his appeal which must be filed within 14 days.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter. Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same. To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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Who’s Telling Truth About Nation’s Job Numbers?

Today, I ran across conflicting numbers about the nation’s employment situation. You decide who’s telling the truth.

Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) Job Numbers Lie

One set of claims (above) comes from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO). In a graphic on her Facebook page. She shares this: “ICYMI: The economy has added 12.3 million private sector jobs in the last 62 months.”  In case you missed it, Claire, the economy is in the toilet thanks to you and your president’s misguided and dangerous policies and actions.

Zero Hedge: Not in Labor Force

A second set of claims comes from the popular website, Zero Hedge, and is accompanied by the an explanation that describes the April 2015 jobs payroll report as “unambiguously” unpleasant and indicative of “the accelerating deterioration of the broader economy.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics 5-9-2015

Finally, a set of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the civilian labor force participation rate in the form of a chart that resembles a playground slide more accurately than it does anything positive about the economy.


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‘SUDDEN JIHAD’ SYNDROME? Missouri Bus Station Murder Shares Much in Common with Boston Marathon Bombing

The Boston Marathon Bombing trial garnered a lot of media attention in recent days, in part, because the men suspected of committing the attack were Muslims and the attack itself bore earmarks of Islamic terrorism.  Conversely, a deadly shooting that took place in Missouri almost four years ago involved a Muslim man as the alleged shooter but has received little news coverage beyond the Show-Me State.

Mohamed H. Dawod

Mohamed H. Dawod

Less than 48 hours before the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, witnesses say then-25-year-old Mohamed H. Dawod shot to death Justin Hall, 32, of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, at a Greyhound bus station in Springfield, Mo. Soon after the shooting, Dawod found himself facing charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Almost two years of hearings and mental health assessments followed, and Dawod was committed to a mental institution to face mental evaluations every six months until he is deemed competent to stand trial or permanently committed.

Should Dawod face trial instead of remaining in a mental institution?

Some might claim Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old Boston Marathon bomber, was crazy when he participated in the plot that killed three spectators and wounded more than 260 others at the site of the famous footrace. Still, he was found guilty of multiple crimes, including murder, for his actions in concert with his 26-year-old brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shootout with police hours after the bombing.

Witnesses reported Dawod and his alleged victim were passengers on a bus traveling from Amarillo, Texas, but did not to know each other, and were preparing to board the bus for the last leg of the journey to St. Louis when the shooting took place.

Soon after the shooting took place, police officials in Missouri’s third-largest city were quick to label the incident involving the Glendale, Ariz., native as “random,” according to a Sept. 9, 2011, report in the Springfield News-Leader.

According to a local television report the same day, those same police officials said that, because of a language barrier, they had only learned Dawod’s name and had asked the FBI to help them with the investigation.  Also in that report was this:

Ten separate witnesses say they did not notice the men fighting or arguing before the shooting.  One passenger said she watched the suspect wander around the terminal until the call to line up to re-board the bus.  “She then observed the suspect remove a silver and black handgun from a back pack he was carrying,” the officer wrote.  “The suspect then pointed the handgun upward while saying something.  The witness could not understand what the suspect said and didn’t know if he was speaking English.”  No matter what was said the witness said Hall didn’t react or turn around.  Shortly after the witness says Dawod shot him from a few feet away.

Soon after the shooting, I wondered aloud whether the words Dawod reportedly shouted as he pointed his gun in the air could have been “Alluh Akbar,” the cry that’s been heard coming from the mouths of so many Islamic extremists moments before they suffer from so-called “sudden jihad syndrome.”  Unable to answer that question with certainty, I pointed readers to a same-day report in the Springfield News-Leader that contained more insight about the supposed “language barrier.”

Click image above to read charges filed against Mohamed H. Dawod in Greene County, Mo.

Click image above to read charges filed against Mohamed H. Dawod in Greene County, Mo.

Based largely on interviews with three people who were at the scene of the shooting, the article noted two observations I had made early on in my coverage of the case — that is, the shooter tried to fire again but could not because his gun jammed and witnesses believed the shooter intended to shoot several people.  In addition, however, it noted that Patrick Beeman, Hall’s traveling companion, said Dawod asked police a question in English after he was arrested:  “He said, ‘if I quit shooting at people, can I get back on the bus?’”  In other words, he does speak English!

Because I haven’t seen any news coverage of the Dawod case since the report of Dawod being committed, I sent email messages to two people — Dawod’s defense attorney, Stuart Paul Huffman, and Greene County, Mo., Prosecutor Dan Patterson — this morning. In my message, I requested “as much detail as possible” about Dawod’s status.

As soon as I hear back from these men, I will provide an update in this space. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 5/15/2015 at 1:25 p.m. Central:  Dawod has been declared incompetent to proceed with trial, according to Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson as reported in this article published Thursday. The next step? A probate court proceeding will take place and Keith Schafer, director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, will decide whether to move forward with either commitment or guardianship proceedings.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

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