Looking Back…Three Long Years…And Pressing On

Our hearing in May marked 3 long years of our battle with the City of Poplar Bluff over Open Access to the Network. And today, June 7, marks three years since appearing before City Council my first time. I actually remember thinking, on my way to city hall, that once they understood what Bach had done, they would correct it. How’s that for naive?

One of the most remarkable achievements during this time was our second petition drive. Just over 3400 Poplar Bluff verified voters signed the petition. Our group of volunteers turned in over 700 change of address or new voter registration cards.

5000 Poplar Bluffians show up to vote for Governor each election. Under 1100 showed up in 2001 to vote to build the City’s network and start providing cable in the first place (680 voted yes).

We had 3400 voters: That equates to 68% of our gubernatorial vote; 3 times the number who came out for the network vote; and 4 times the number who voted YES to start the network.

Never before had our citizens come together on an issue.

And yet, our local government was belligerent to the desires of its own citizens.

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On Dec 8, 2011, I promised to do my best to make a wholesale change of our city leaders who make up this corrupt city government. Not just for me, my company, my family and my employees, but also for the good, hard-working people of this city and surrounding area.

Those next few weeks, I spoke with a number of candidates who were interested in helping make that change. I had whittled my list of prospective Ward 4 candidates down to two when Johnny Brannum called to coach me on what it would take to win in Ward 4. We talked about which of the two candidates would be able to beat Edington. I had never met Brannum before, but I had read his 2001 full-page DAR editorial a couple of times from his first term.

During our second phone call, I said, “Johnny, we need you to run…you know how to win and you showed 10 years ago that you were not afraid to vote 6-1 against the city.” He laughed it off; I begged; he talked to Leaann; I begged; he filed; he campaigned; he won.

The Good Ole Boys (or GOBs as I like to call them) thought it was a fluke.

In August of 2012, I posted on Facebook that we needed a candidate for Ward 1 because we felt that was the best of the two wards to focus on. Moments later a young woman posted that she was thinking about getting involved locally. After meeting her and her husband, I connected her with Johnny Brannum. Angela Pearson filed; she campaigned; she blew her opponent out of the voting booth with 70% of the vote; and City Council inaugurated its second independent voice.

I look for candidates who I believe will listen to information and opinions and vote what they think is right. I don’t want to have sway over them like Doug Bagby and the GOBs have had for the past 30 years. If someone thinks I could get a vote I wanted out of Johnny or Angela then they don’t know Johnny or Angela. They are the type of people we need running our City…not a council who gives away $250k to buddies with the second highest bid; or doesn’t call into question a Utilities Manager when he over-budgets his income by $3.5M three years in a row; or who allows their employees to collude and conspire to disgrace and coerce a councilman into resigning.

Of course I’ve asked both of these council members a single question before they ran: Do you support Open Access? Johnny told me he didn’t know, I supported him anyway. After a month of campaigning Johnny called and said, “I’m now for Open Access because my ward is definitely for Open Access.” Angela, too, affirmed Open Access in our first meeting. That doesn’t make them “in my pocket”…that shows they are wise and want what’s best for Poplar Bluff citizens.

In April of next year three more of the old-guard-council-members need to be fired at the polls: Robert Smith, Susan McVey, & Lloyd Matthews (who has indicated he probably won’t run). It will take three good candidates, plenty of cash for the campaign, and volunteers. I strongly believe it will happen.

Four votes on City Council is all that is necessary to eliminate these corrupt GOBs. I hope that if we get four or five clear-headed, intelligent, think-for-themselves council members (which would be a first in recent memory) – they will strongly consider firing the City Manager and City Clerk for malfeasance; fire Bill Bach for mismanagement of Municipal Utilities; and fill those positions with administrators who won’t line their own pockets but will run this city with integrity and decency.

On this third anniversary of corruption invading my business and destroying most of my company, I look forward to next April which promises to bring a chapter of Poplar Bluff corruption to an end. If we are successful, the GOBs will lose a chunk of their power and we can have a public-dialog of Open Access and whether it is good for our community.

Please feel free to comment below with your feelings about the past three years. I’d love to hear your opinions.

Here are a few milestones from the past three years:

  • May 14, 2010 – Bach sends letter saying SEMO.net could no longer add customers
  • Jun 8, 2010 – Becker appears before City Council asking to purchase more bandwidth to the network
  • Jul 19, 2010 – Council votes to end Open Access and kick off competitors in Oct 2012
  • Mar 17 – 2011 – Council moves deadline for Open Access to May
  • Apr 22, 2011 – Injunction Hearing held (denied on May 2)
  • May 9, 2011 – City ends Open Access
  • July 5, 2011 – Turned in Petition with 700 names – Council Says Start over and get 2900
  • Nov 8, 2011 – Turned in 2nd petition with over 3400 verified inside city limits voters signing.
  • Nov 22, 2011 – City Clerk & Council ignores the request of 3400 voters
  • Nov 25, 2011 – Judge throws out SEMO.net’s case against City
  • Dec 8, 2011 – Becker vows to fire these corrupt thugs
  • Still waiting on Judge’s decision on City’s case against SEMO.net
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After graduating from Mizzou with Computer and Electrical Engineering degrees in 1985, Brian Becker spent a decade singing Christian Rock and being a labeled artist with Benson Music Group of Nashville. In 1995, he and several investors started the area's first Internet Service called PBMO.net and by 2000 the company was serviing Internet access in over 50 communities throughout Southeast Missouri as SEMO.net. In July 2014, Becker again made a major pivot and became Publisher of the SEMO TIMES: a weekly print and daily online news and entertainment source for the region.