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FRIDAY & SATURDAY, March 26-27, 2010 — Page 5A
Write. Reflect. Respond.
Should a moratorium be put on city travel expenses?
Third Ward candidate Gary Kespohl released a campaign ad this week that publicly criticizes incumbent Karl Skala about the travel expenses he accrued during his first three-year term. The ad says, “Skala has been on a three-year, taxpayer-funded spending junket — traveling and eating like a king.” The Johnny Cash song “I’ve Been Everywhere” plays in the ad, too. Skala defended his spending, saying the expenses were legitimate. A portion of his travel was to attend conferences of the National League of Cities which has met in New Orleans; Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio; and other locations over the past three years. Council travel budgets from city records show that Skala spent more than other council members on travel during each of his first three years on the council. Each ward representative is allotted $4,500, while the mayor is given $10,000 for travel expenses. There are guidelines for these expenses but no specific rules. The Finance Department determines if expenses that exceed the suggested amount are justified. Kespohl said he feels city officials should be more specific when spending taxpayer money. Should a moratorium be put on city expenses? What do you think of Kespohl’s ad targeting Skala’s travel?
— Kourtney Geers
Tell us what you think E-mail your comments to letters@ColumbiaMissourian.com Or mail them to: Idea of the Day, P.O. Box 917, Columbia, MO 65205
State could lose money with back-only licenses Republican L
et’s face it, we all get a bit nervous when we see the red and blue lights of a police car when we are driving. “What did I do wrong?” is usually followed by “this time” for those of us who tend to have a heavy right foot. Even when the lights are burning into your rear view mirror from one mile back, the nerves still raise a few hairs on the back of your neck, and as you pull over to the right lane, you hope and pray that the state trooper does not join you. So having a box on a lamp post at a busy intersection that takes your picture if it perceives you have violated the rules concerning red lights is unnerving. Is that legal? Can a private company operate these cameras, evaluate the pictures and then send those that appear to have drivers violating a state law to the controlling police, sheriff or state patrol office for further action? The same reaction comes when you know that you just passed an innocuous van parked on the side of the road that might have a speed camera inside attached to a speed gun. Both of these situations might lead to the increasing paranoia of opening your mailbox to find a traffic ticket. Where’s a cop when you need one? For any of these cameras to work properly, an automobile needs to have a front license plate. At least for the time being. Now here’s the rub. Along with various lawsuits ranging from which court should handle these remotely issued tickets to the constitutionality of not being able to confront your accuser, the Missouri General Assembly is now looking at the elimination of front license plates. A quick search on the House and Senate Joint Bill Tracking site shows that five of 12 proposed bills concerning license plates involve removal of a vehicle’s front plate. Republicans and Democrats alike think that stamping only one license plate instead of two will save the state money. All of these efforts died either a quick death or have not seen action in more than a month. Yet Sen. Matt Bartle is keeping the idea alive as an amendment to SB781. SB781 is a comprehensive bill concerning the regulation of motor vehicles. You most likely know this as the bill that would outlaw texting while driving for everyone, not just drivers 21 years old and younger. The amendment, effective Aug. 28 if passed, says that only one license plate will be issued for a private vehicle unless you want to pay an additional $15 for the front plate. If you order a vanity or “special” plate, two will be issued automatically. Will they also charge the extra $15 automatically? First, the problem is the loss of funds from traffic tickets by the various municipalities and the state that use red-light and speed cameras for enforcement. Without a front plate, how can you properly identify the violating vehicle? The Missouri State Highway Patrol says you cannot. The Highway Patrol says the loss of the front plate “could reduce an officer’s ability to detect a violation by 50 percent, would have a negative impact on personal property tax collection, mandatory insurance compliance, as well as the collection of license fees.” How will municipalities, which have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on camera equipment, recover lost expenditures and revenue? Will municipalities have to spend additional money to readopt the current camera systems to catch the front (the driver’s picture) and back (the license plate) of the violating vehicle? Will the bill really save the state that much money? The fiscal impact note to the bill says the state will lose $1.44 million immediately. That’s the cost of license plates and tags already in stock. In fact, the fiscal note says that there is “no way to estimate the full impact of this legislation, it assumes an unknown impact.” SB781 will cost Missouri money, not save it. The second problem? Who in their right mind would be willing to spend an extra $15 so the municipality can mail you a ticket based on a picture? To paraphrase an old saying, “Stupidity is nine-tenths of the law.”
David Rosman is a award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at InkandVoice. com and The New York Journal of Books.
ignorance shines in state Capitol
e know that God must love idiots because he made so many of them. What’s less clear is why they seem to congregate in our state Capitol. If you’ve doubted that we’re being governed largely by the less gifted, I call your attention to events of the past few days. Most, but not all, of the idiocy was touched off by the passage Sunday night in Washington of a law that will extend health insurance coverage to 30 million of our fellow citizens, limit the abuses of insurance companies and trim the federal deficit by billions of dollars over the next decade. It’s not perfect, but our country is a giant step closer to catching up with the rest of the developed world. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who fortunately has no real power, immediately announced that he is joining the lawsuit filed by 14 state attorneys general — all but one Republican — challenging the federal government’s power to require everyone to have health insurance. Mr. Kinder, already running for governor, said he’s doing this in his role as designated advocate for senior citizens. You have to wonder if he realizes that we senior citizens are generally highly satisfied with our Medicare (which is, contrary to the looney tunes shouters and unlike the new law, real government insurance). You have to wonder if he understands that the new law will strengthen the financial health of Medicare, relieve us of subsidizing
Kinder is out of touch with reality but in step with his fellow Republicans.
those expansive Medicare Advantage policies and move toward closing the “doughnut hole” in our prescription drug coverage. You can be pretty sure he has blocked from his memory the reality that the individual mandate he’s opposing is actually a Republican and insurance industry idea that used to be supported by the likes of John McCain and Mitt Romney before they were lobotomized by the tea partiers. The lieutenant governor may be out of touch with reality, but he’s in step with his fellow Republican fantasists in the legislature. Down the marble corridor from his office, the House has already endorsed a state constitutional amendment that purports to exempt Missouri from the federal law. The Senate is eager to join in. It’s as though they never heard of that dust-up called the Civil War, or maybe they’ve forgotten who won. We haven’t heard much about nullification since then — until now. The anti-health care mood among
our elected rulers is so strong that, as the Missourian reported Tuesday, the Senate Insurance Committee approved a bill prohibiting the purchase of insurance that covers abortion. We already have more restrictions than all but three other states. Not tough enough, say the senators. Meanwhile, offered a chance to do some actual good, Republican leaders have blocked, again, Rep. Mary Still’s attempt to limit the predatory practices of the payday lenders. We have looser rules and more of those predators than our neighboring states. It seems certain to stay that way. Perhaps coincidentally, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that payday lenders have contributed $383,050 to legislators in the past three years. To close on a positive note, there may yet be grounds for hoping that our leaders at least sense their limitations. I discovered on a conservative Web site the news, unreported by the mainstream media as far as I can see, that the legislature has decreed a period of prayer for wisdom to begin at noon Monday in the Capitol Rotunda. The Illinois Review reports that Christians are being asked to pray and fast for 40 days, until the legislative deadline for passing the state budget. Wisdom for this bunch may be a stretch, even for the Almighty. I suppose it can’t hurt to ask, though.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.
Guidelines for election letters
The Missourian will publish letters and guest columns about the April 6 elections for City Council, the Columbia School Board and city ballot measures at no charge. Letters must be received by April 1. The last day for letters to appear in print is April 4. The last day for letters to appear at ColumbiaMissourian.com is April 5. All letters will run online at ColumbiaMissourian.com. Every effort will be made to publish them in the print Missourian by April 4. Anonymous letters will not be accepted. Please include a daytime telephone number and address with your letter for verification purposes. We will not publish your address or phone number, but we will publish a general description of where each writer resides. Letters generally run around 400-500 words. Longer pieces will be considered for guest columns. Questions? Contact us at 882-5743. MAIL: Letter to Editor, P.O. Box 917, Columbia, MO 65205 E-MAIL: letters@ColumbiaMissourian.com FAX: 882-5702 DROP OFF: 221 S. Eighth St., 2nd floor newsroom
General Manager Daniel S. Potter potterds@ missouri.edu
Executive Editor Tom Warhover warhovert@ missouri.edu
Managing Editor Jeanne Abbott abbottjm@ missouri.edu
Opinion Editor Jake Sherlock sherlockj@ missouri.edu
DOONESBURY by GaRRy TRudeau
“I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of a lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust. I believe that clear thinking and clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.”
WalTer Williams, founding dean, missouri school of journalism WriTe: Letter to Editor, P.O. Box 917, Columbia, MO 65205 e-mail: letters@ColumbiaMissourian.com FaX: 573-882-5702 Call: 573-882-5744 Or Call: 573-882-9951
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