Tour of Missouri-gate: Governor's office admits receiving meeting request, passes buck to Tourism Commission

Will Lance Armstrong or other top racers be doing this in Missouri in September?
Will Lance Armstrong or other top racers be doing this in Missouri in September?
Today a spokesman for Governor Nixon denied that the Nixon administration had received any request by representatives of the Tour of Missouri to request a meeting.

After a post on MoBikeFed.org documented no less than five separate meeting requests and posted the full text of one of them online, Governor Nixon's office admitted that a request had been received (though, oddly, not that one that had been published and distributed to news media) but then proceeded to pass the buck to the Missouri Tourism Commission, an appointed body.

As of this time, Tour officials have not received any acknowledgement that the Division of Tourism has received the meeting request, plans to meet with Tour officials (including representatives of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation), or plans to hold a vote on the specific appropriation for the Tour of Missouri recently approved by the Missouri General Assembly.

According to the Riverfront Times story:

"You have to be either deaf, dumb or blind," fumes Tour of Missouri's board chairman Mike Weiss earlier today. "We have sent them pretty detailed e-mails and letters about our requests for a meeting with the governor and his staff. I've been pressing them since February with repeated calls and e-mails. The governor has been amazingly unresponsive to us and the thousands of calls he's received."

Weiss is most upset by comments made yesterday by Sam Murphey, Nixon's deputy press secretary, in which he told Riverfront Times that he was unaware of any meeting requests by Weiss or anyone else involved in the high-profile, five-day bicycle race, scheduled to begin in St. Louis on August 31.

Murphey offered this response, via e-mail: "After our conversation yesterday, I checked with the constituent services office. There was a request for a meeting, and our office directed them to the Tourism Commission."

The reason behind Weiss's urgency is that the Division of Tourism and Tourism Commission, which has sponsored the competition since its inception in 2007, say the severe budget cutbacks it faces next year -- a cut from nearly $20 million to $13.5 million -- means it won't be able to afford to come up with its $1 million contribution.

Says Commission chair Marci Bennett: "You know, they say there are 2 million bicyclists in Missouri. Well, if they all gave a dollar..."

?Nixon, meanwhile, chose to leave the decision to eliminate Tour of Missouri funding to the tourism department -- hence Weiss's hope that he might turn things around with in-person pleas to the governor and top aides. 

Weiss and other race proponents strongly believe, though, that the state's budgetary woes have nothing to do with Nixon's refusal to intercede.

They say the race is on death watch because of Nixon's dislike for his political rival and likely gubernatorial challenger in 2012, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a vocal Tour of Missoui advocate, who once held the board chairman job that Weiss now has.

Besides, organizers argue, the 2009 Tour of Missouri, which attracted more than 100 world-class bicyclists, generated $38.1 milliion and that a half-million spectators watched the raace at one of the 11 host cities in Missouri.

Read the rest of the story--including news about Lance Armstrong and the Tour of Missouri--on the Riverfront Times web site.

Image of Lance Armstrong courtesy eugene/flickr.com (creative commons license attribution-noncommercial-sharealike 2.0 generic)