New Boundaries for Schools
A proposal by the Columbia School District may reassign as many as 800 elementary school children in northern Columbia by the 2009-2010 school year. The Elementary Enrollment Planning Committee offered up its initial redistricting proposal Monday. The proposal would reorganize boundary lines determining attendance in the district.
The realignment was drawn up by looking at the enrollment patterns of the eight area elementary schools closest to the new site. Around 200 students from Derby Ridge would attend the new school, said Don Ludwig, the district’s enrollment committee chairman.
Field would become an early childhood education center under the plan, and its students would be split up between the new school, Benton and Blue Ridge. Ludwig said the plan would reduce overcrowding, allow room for growth and better match capacity and enrollment.
The committee’s transition plan for affected families involves the potential for their children to attend their current school, enroll in the redistricted school, or transfer enrollment to another school.
Several forums were held last week to discuss the plan, and three more are tentatively scheduled for April. The committee’s final proposal goes before the school board on May 12.
In what ways could a realignment affect children in Columbia, for better or worse?
No Tiffs Over TIFs
Downtown businesses may be able to more easily receive tax breaks under a funding plan the City Council unanimously approved Monday. The council approved guidelines for Tax Increment Funding, or TIF. It also created a commission to oversee the application process for the businesses seeking tax breaks.
The funding is designed to encourage businesses to expand and, in Columbia’s case, propel the downtown redevelopment effort. TIFs can be used in different ways — perhaps to freeze property tax rates or to use additional property taxes to pay for project infrastructure.
City funding for individual TIF requests will be determined by 11 unpaid members: six will be appointed by Mayor Darwin Hindman, two by the Columbia Board of Education and two by the presiding commissioner of Boone County. One member would represent districts affected by the TIF.
Funding would only be granted to a project that would otherwise be financially impossible, which City Manager Bill Watkins called a key piece of the guidelines. Other guidelines include giving preference to developments bringing people in from outside the city or “create jobs with wages that exceed the median income level of Columbia.”
Are tax breaks for businesses the best way to encourage downtown redevelopment?
The Fed’s Bold Move
The Federal Reserve’s ¾-point reduction Tuesday of a key interest rate to 2.25 percent was the latest effort to kick-start a sluggish economy teetering toward a recession.
This is already the second time this year that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke ordered such a cut. A similar reduction in January marked the largest rate cut in nearly a quarter century.
Two Fed members pushed for a smaller cut, while Wall Street was hoping for a full-point reduction. Marvin Goodfriend, economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said the Fed’s series of actions, though helpful for the economy, carry with them “a risk that people will perceive them as involving some slight desperation.”
The cut comes on the heels of last weekend’s sale of banking giant Bear Stearns, once worth $3.5 billion, to JPMorgan Chase for just $235 million.
Mirroring general feelings stuck between relief and panic, stocks rose 420 points on Tuesday after the Fed’s announcement but fell 293 points Wednesday. The Fed acknowledged this week that the economy has worsened, saying financial markets remain “under considerable stress” and that the credit and housing crises may persist for several quarters.
What kinds of hardships would a serious economic recession impose on your daily life?
Boosting Roots ‘N’ Blues
The effort to keep the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ festival free to the public hit a high note Monday night after the City Council unanimously voted to donate $100,000 toward the event.
The money for the sponsorship will come out of the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s reserved fund balance, which currently sits at about $746,000, according to a memo from city staff to the council. The Boone County National Bank sponsored last year’s festival in celebration of the bank’s 150th anniversary.
Thumper Productions, the company organizing this year’s festival, requested money from the Convention and Visitor Advisory Board in February to continue the event, which was given initial approval. The council had the final say.
Lorah Steiner of the Convention and Visitors Bureau wrote in a memo to the council that the festival drew over 65,000 people last year, saying that she and the board believed that the funding may help attract a national or regional sponsor next year. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said the festival “will help the community make a name for itself.”
What potential do you see in the Roots ‘N’ Blues ‘N’ BBQ festival as an attention-getting Columbia mainstay?
The Columbia Police Department will spend $30,000 of grant money in 2008 to equip 32 of its officers with the Taser stun gun. At least 70 of the division’s 82 street officers will be carrying the debated non-lethal weapon by year’s end.
The impending purchase reflects the department’s philosophy that officers armed with Tasers are not only less likely to be injured but are also less likely to injure those they are arresting.
The purchase comes at a time in which the use of Tasers is being challenged nationwide. Amnesty International USA reports that more than 290 people have died after being Tasered since 2001.
Some police officers have claimed, according to personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, that they have received “severe and permanent” injuries after getting shocked during training. Columbia police believe the Tasers have few risks.
Capt. Steven Monticelli, Columbia patrol division commander, said the department had never received a complaint from a suspect who has been Tasered. Nevertheless, all officers who receive the devices will be required to go through a certification class each year. Cameras attached to the bottom of the device, creating an instant video record, are being tested.
Do you believe Tasers are safe devices, or do they bring unnecessary risks?