Over 3400 Voters Say "Let PB Decide!"

Nov 08, 2011

Dear council members and neighbors,

I’ve appeared before you on a number of occasions over the last 18 months. I apologize for any counter-productive or offending behavior which set our paths at odds. My business and livelihood, as well as the livelihood of my staff, were in jeopardy. I was thrust into this political world I was not prepared for. Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening.

On July 5, a group of citizens appeared before you hoping to restore choice and competition to the City Cable network. We were told that an ordinance by petition was our only solution.

[City Manager] Mr. [Doug] Bagby said it takes 2,900 signatures of Poplar Bluff registered voters to sign a petition and put something on the ballot.

In a letter dated June 28, 2011 Mr. Bagby wrote: “If you do acquire the correct number of signatures…please be assured the City Council will abide by the ‘letter of the law’ and ‘spirit of the law’ and honor the vote of the public whichever way it turns out.”

Today, I’m excited to announce that over 3,400 of your neighbors, family and friends, but most importantly your constituents, stand with me today. We The People of Poplar Bluff want the Open Access Ordinance placed on our next ballot.

The breakdown of constituents by ward who stand with me today, shows that this is truly a city-wide issue: Wards 1, 2, 3 and 5 were all around 600 voters while ward 4 topped 900.

I’ve spent a lot of time in each of your wards. I’ve knocked on countless doors and spoken heart-to-heart with hundreds of our fellow citizens.

Like the young man raising his family of four in Ward 1; he recently lost his job. The day I knocked on his door he had just gotten his first unemployment funds. He told me how the bills dwarfed what he’d received and they have nothing until the next check. He had to cancel his City Cable services because it was just too expensive.

He said he didn’t know how much longer his landlord would allow them to stay there. I told him that he can survive that too, and shared with him, that when we lost all our cable customers, I had to sell my home and explain to my children why we had to move in with family.

We both spoke of a better day when this economy is back on its feet and those who seek a good job can find one. And we also talked about how our citizens should benefit from owning this network with lower prices and better services. I urge you to listen to Gerald’s voice this evening.

A young lady from Ward 5 had just recently received her voter registration card when I knocked on her door. She was excited to perform her first task as a United States voter; or the man from Ward 3 who was registered but has never voted, he said he would vote for the first time when this makes the ballot. Listen to Beth’s and Chris’ voice this evening.

One man and his wife from Ward 2 were former semo.net cable customers, he said he didn’t think it was possible to get to 2,900 signatures but if we ever got to 2,850 they’d sign and they did. I urge you to listen to their voices.

Jerry lived in Ward 1 and worked for semo.net. He was one of eight employees who lost their job in May and June because Open Access ended. Unsuccessful at finding a job here, he had to move his family to Marion and our town lost a good family.

A lovely lady on Pershing Street in Ward 4, lit up when she opened the door and I introduced myself. She recognized me from my City Council appearances and scurried into the other room returning with her petition… already signed. She hugged me and gave me such strength to keep going.

I’ve spoken with policemen, firemen and other city workers and their spouses who wanted to sign but couldn’t afford the scrutiny it might bring. I’ve spoken with hundreds of City Cable users who live outside the city limits and are not allowed to participate in this petition. They have no voice here, even though they teach our children, own businesses in town, and spend their money here. I urge you to hear them tonight.

I’ve counted and recounted these people who signed this petition. We have many more than the 2,900 needed to make our voice heard. It is now time to place this in the hands of our citizen voters.

This is an honest consensus of your constituents. Our city has spoken like we’ve never spoken before on a single issue. The people who elected you now hand you a mandate. Let’s not get bogged down by some technical argument about the petition itself. Let’s not argue over hanging chads.

Let’s honor the spirit of what this petition brings to light: Your city wants to vote on this issue!

After receiving the petition this evening, our Missouri law allows our City Clerk, Ms. [Pam] Kearbey, only 10 days to certify this petition. That means the certification must be concluded by Nov. 17. And it will take as many as seven full-time city or county employees over the next 10 days to meet this deadline.

You have every right to spend the thousands of dollars necessary to certify this petition, but I’m confident of the outcome, and I suggest that you save time, energy, frustration and money, and just put this on the ballot. Let [Poplar Bluff] decide.

The deadline for placing a question on the February 2012 ballot is Nov. 22 and the City Council is scheduled to meet on Nov. 21. Let’s work to get this on that February ballot.

I am available 24/7 over the course of this process to aid our city clerk, our city manager and each of you.

I suggest that the ballot question be similar in form to:

Shall Poplar Bluff, Missouri, pass the Open Access Petition Ordinance and encourage choice and competition on the City Cable network?

Yes No

This ordinance requires “at cost” pricing and should not increase cost to the tax payers.

As you have promised, I too make that same promise: I will abide by the ballot results. If the people go to the polls and our ordinance is not passed, I will respect the outcome and not bring this issue before you again.

I would be remiss if I did not mention how essential our County Clerk, Tonyi Deffendall, and her staff have been to our efforts. Her office has received hundreds of voter change of address forms during the past two months. Our petition efforts could not have been successful without the tireless assistance of Ms. Deffendall and her staff.

To the thousands of citizens who stand with us in this request, I am utterly and humbly grateful. To the amazing friends who came into my office and laid cash on my desk to help fund this effort I will forever be indebted. To Barb Rexroat who has been an inspiration, an anchor, a guiding force and a workhorse. [My wife] Toni and I love you. To my parents, who in their 80s walked with us in the July heat over the hills of Bluff Estates: You amaze me.

Getting 2,900 people to stand with my wife and I seemed like such an impossible hill to climb. And yet daily, one or more of you would lift us up with your encouragement; your prayers; your help, your gifts, your stories; a hug or kind words.

Thank you, Poplar Bluff, for believing in me and my vision for our citizen-owned cable network.


Brian Becker

  1. jerry mcdowell

    i hate to say it but this is how the world turns as i was listening to fox news yesterday they proposed a question …are we going to be a socialist nation or AMERICA . we are leaning more and more toward bigger government ..the private business sector is gradually being squeezed out. what i call a power play. see brian semo.net rocked the boat they expanded and was prospering $$$ wise. the city in return soon seen they could cut out the middle man (semo.net) and control all isp business in the city limits. you take 3400 customers generates lots $$$$$. i do not know you personally but at least your willing to stand up and fight. with your name attached to it. unlike the Concerned Citizen who did the accusing. i hope you can come out with a victory . but don’t be surprised if the city don,t find a way to get part of your signatures throw-ed out. it,s not about what the people want but the government federal state county city . sadly to say we are headed toward socialism if the citizens don,t wake up and take the ear plugs out..remove the blinders there will only be one isp and you will pay the price or do with out. just like gas prices !!!!!!

  2. Barbara Holbrook

    Brian I have known you since you were a youth singing at New Covenant with a pig nose on your face. I am so sorry for all of this that has happened to your family. I am one of the people that live outside of the city limits or my name would have been on that petition. I believe in what you are doing and my prayers are with you and your family.

    1. Brian Becker

      Ya know, Mrs. Holbrook, you could have used a more inspiring memory of me than that “pig nose”
      Bless you for your kind words.

  3. Concerned Citizen

    Ya know Brian – if you would have just not thought you were above the normal citizen and paid your bill – none of this would have happened. I know you won’t let this comment show to the public because you don’t want them to know the truth but how much do you owe now? If you paid your bills for services rendered, none of this sham would be necessary.

    1. Brian Becker

      Dear concerned, I certainly don’t mind you posting this and allow all opinions, as long as they are not mean-spirited or personal, to be posted.

      I would like to respond though. First, this didn’t start because of us not paying our bill. Our bills were all paid in full before the grace period ended (though I’m sure we were late a couple of times). Our Open Access bill was due on the 15th of the month, and delinquent by the 15th of the following month according to the policy book and per a letter from Mr Bach, himself. That 30 day grace period was not my brainchild and could have been revoked at any time by the city. So, we paid our bills…all our bills…prior to the city choosing to end Open Access.

      Now, we did choose not to pay the bills as charged from December 2010-May 2011 because of the gross over-billing (again this we after all this had started). We were being charged $4000 more than what we were charging our customers for the service. So we paid what we believed was the correct amount and filed a “dispute” for the remaining amount. There is a specific process in the Municipal Utilities and City Cable policy book that describe how a dispute is to be handled and, it goes on to say, the amount disputed is not considered due until the dispute runs the full resolution process. The city refused to follow their own policy and in so doing the disputed amounts of $140k are still not due.

      I’m not afraid of the truth, Concerned. My cell number is 778-6500 and I’d be happy to dialog about this any time you would like.
      If they would ever choose to follow their own policy and have a 30 minute hearing in front of the City Council and allow me to call witnesses (for example, Bill Bach and Doug Bagby) they could resolve this. However, we both know that it is the fear of what they will have to testify to that is keeping them from having this hearing.

  4. jerry mcdowell

    just say no to big government monopoly. all this is politics kick the city but