Five ideas: What are your thoughts on these items in the news this week?

Saturday, January 26, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Airline looking to "turn a buck"

Columbia Regional Airport suffered another body blow last week when Air Midwest notified the city and the federal government that it intends to stop providing flights to and from Kansas City in April. Air Midwest’s parent company, Mesa Air Group, has done the same in several other cities around the Midwest, saying it simply can’t turn a buck given rising fuel prices and dismal passenger numbers.

City officials will file a formal objection with the U.S. Department of Transportation in an attempt to preserve the Kansas City service, but the trend over the past few years makes it clear that commercial flights to and from St. Louis and Kansas City aren’t going to fill the bill. Air Midwest isn’t the first airline to go belly up trying to make the service profitable, but it is the first to do so even with a $600,000 federal subsidy.

City Manager Bill Watkins, who’s been talking with representatives of MU, Jefferson City and the Lake of the Ozarks area about luring a new airline to town, said the city will redouble its efforts to attract a new airline that will fly to a different destination.

Where would you like commercial flights from Columbia to go and why?

Hot seat on the City Council

For the first time in recent memory, four candidates have filed to compete for a seat on the Columbia City Council. Three people — Paul Sturtz of Ragtag Cinemacafe and True/False Film Festival fame, John Clark of North Central Columbia and registered nurse Karen Baxter of the Ridgeway Neighborhood Association — are challenging three-term First Ward incumbent Almeta Crayton.

Just what prompted the sudden burst of interest in the central-city council seat remains unclear, but the First Ward has certainly been a hotbed of activity in recent years. The North Central Neighborhood Association is working hard to push an ambitious overlay district that would guide redevelopment, and there’s been plenty of progress toward establishing an artist’s village. Covenant Community Development Corp. plans a major mixed-use project at Garth Avenue and Sexton Road that it hopes will revitalize the area and provide much-needed jobs. City planners are marching ahead with a Providence Road Corridor project. And that’s just the short list.

The conversation that’s sure to emerge during the coming campaign season can’t be anything but healthy.

What are your priorities for Columbia’s First Ward?

Tax rebates intended to head off recession

Congress and the White House agreed Thursday to begin rushing rebates of $600 to $1,200 to most tax filers by spring, according to a report by The Associated Press. Rebates would be even higher for families with children.

President Bush praised the bipartisan agreement. “This package will lead to higher consumer spending and increased business investment,” he said.

The one-time rebates are aimed at pumping about $150 billion into the economy this year, the AP said, and to perhaps head off recession since 2001.

Individual taxpayers would get up to $600 in rebates, working couples $1,200 and those with children an additional $300 per child under the agreement. In a key concession to Democrats, 35 million families who make at least $3,000 but don’t pay taxes would get $300 rebates.

The rebates would phase out gradually for individuals whose adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 and for couples with incomes above $150,000.

If the Senate gives quick approval, the first rebate payments could begin going out in May and most people could have them by July.

Do you think tax rebates will stimulate the economy?

Divided on affirmative action

The NAACP is opposing an initiative petition calling for a constitutional amendment that would kill many affirmative action programs.

The petition being circulated by the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative proposes to end discrimination in all state-run institutions based on “race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin” unless such programs are necessary to secure federal money.

Mary Ratliff, state and local president of the NAACP, said she has encouraged all members to “decline to sign.”

“Many African-Americans are underprivileged economically due to past inequities,” Ratliff said. “To not grant any race- or gender-based criteria would mean many African-Americans and women would be unable to attend college.”

Tim Asher, executive director of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, said he submitted the petition because he believes the proposed constitutional amendment would help to end unfair discrimination.

“Our government should not be viewing us as anything but equals,” said Asher, adding that his group will rely on both volunteers and paid staff to collect the roughly 150,000 signatures required to get it on the November ballot.

How do you feel about affirmative action programs?

Gubernatorial race heating up

Gov. Matt Blunt announced Tuesday afternoon that he will not run for re-election this year. In an address he posted to his YouTube site, the governor said the goals he set out to complete four years ago were achieved and that he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Blunt delivered a State of the State Address only a week ago that outlined an ambitious agenda for the year.

House Speaker Rod Jetton is one of three state Republicans to publicly say he is considering running to replace Blunt. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder officially declared his candidacy Thursday afternoon, and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan have issued statements that they are looking into the race.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party said that whoever replaces Blunt as the GOP candidate will not affect the issues.

Who should represent the Republican Party in the general election for governor this year?

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