Airline options debated
Members of the Airport Advisory Board are divided evenly on which of three airlines to recommend to provide service at Columbia Regional Airport. At a meeting Wednesday, the board looked at flights between Columbia and Memphis, Tenn., and the prospect of cheaper fares to and from Kansas City.
Several board members liked the proposal by Great Lakes Aviation of Cheyenne, Wyo., which included four daily flights to Kansas City for $75 a ticket (compared to $150 currently charged by Mesa Airlines). They also liked a plan to advertise Columbia on the tail of their planes.
Great Lakes, however, would need to acquire 10 more planes if it won contracts in Columbia and Joplin. Board members noted that efforts to draw interest for flights to Kansas City in the past have mostly been unsuccessful.
Mesaba Airlines of Eagan, Minn., proposed three daily round-trip flights to Memphis. One-way fares would cost $95. Board members who liked this proposal pointed out that Memphis is a hub and could take travelers to more final destinations than a Kansas City connection.
Great Lakes made its pitch Wednesday, and board members will hear Mesaba’s plan at its next meeting.
Hawaii’s Island Air received a lukewarm response, since it lacks what Columbia residents want — connections to more destinations. Board members also did not like their flight times.
Mesa Airlines has filed to end service in Columbia by April 20.
Would you prefer frequent flights to Kansas City or to Memphis?
Death penalty discussed
State House representatives discussed a bill this week to impose a moratorium on the death penalty and create a related commission. The bill, led by Bill Deeken, R-Jefferson City, gained bipartisan support.
Deeken said he is in favor of the death penalty, even though the bill he sponsors would stop any initiatives to execute until January 2011. He said his goal is to make sure the person convicted of murder is, in fact, guilty of the crime, and that he was willing to explore other options,
The bill addresses adequate access to evidence, having adequate council and racial discrepancies. It would also make a commission responsible for making recommendations for changes to the law and court rules about the death penalty.
Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, expressed concern.
“My sense is that this is a vehicle to totally do away with the death penalty ... You could put as a referendum on our whole judicial system whether the person is eligible for the death penalty or not,” he said.
Proponents of the bill said executions needed to stop until they had learned more about use of DNA evidence. Two men who spent years in prison before their convictions were overturned also spoke in favor the bill.
A commission would also seek to make sure race does not play a role in determining which defendants are sentenced to death.
There have been 66 executions in Missouri since 1989. Currently, 46 men are on death row, and 21 are black. None have an execution scheduled.
The American Bar Association has asked for a national moratorium after a three-year study showed that the system had many flaws.
No one testified against the bill, and the committee did not take action.
Is this the best way to bring justice to those convicted of first-degree murder?
Teaching certificate opposed
Deborah Carr, an associate dean in MU’s College of Education, testified before a House committee against a measure to allow people without education degrees to teach full time in public schools after certification by a national organization. The Senate has already passed the measure.
Carr said that the American Board of Certification for Teacher Excellence requires too few hours of classroom experience prior to certification. She testified that she would only support the program if it targeted high-need subjects like math and science.
Bill sponsor Luann Ridgeway said the state’s existing programs force people to quit their jobs and attend classes or teach without preparation if they want to switch careers.
The bill was passed 6-1 by the House Student Achievement Committee, even though Carr and two professors from William Jewell opposed it. The professors say the state already has adequate alternative certification programs, and night classes are available for those interested.
What additional steps does Missouri need to take to widen its roadway for a prospective public school teacher?
Budget cuts hit public schools
The Columbia School Board unanimously approved $5.23 million in budget cuts Thursday morning.
Top-tier items would eliminate one work day from contracts for 1,549 employees, increase wait time for certain employees seeking health insurance and reduce curriculum textbook budgets.
Instead of cutting four literacy coaches from the school district’s payroll, the board voted to cut only two.
Thursday’s meeting was a continuation of one that drew more than 80 people to the discussion. Besides media, about 20 people showed up for the second meeting, and no public comment was made.
Results of Tuesday’s vote on a 54-cent tax levy will determine whether more cuts must be made. If the proposition is voted down, the board will need to cut $5 million more out of its 2008-2009 budget.
Board member Jan Mees, who made a motion to approve the cuts, emphasized that the board’s intention was to restrict cuts to areas that would not directly affect children in the classroom.
If Columbia does not approve a 54-cent tax increase Tuesday, what additional cuts should be made to the budget?
Science cafes begin downtown
Cherry Street Artisan hosted Columbia’s first science cafe Tuesday night.
A science cafe is an event, not a place, where members of the community meet with scientists to discuss relevant topics. The first cafe featured MU Life Sciences Center Director Jack Schultz talking about biofuels as an alternative energy source.
The format of the cafe was modeled after science cafes held in Boston, where a scientist speaks about an issue in layman’s terms, then opens the presentation to group discussion.
“We live in a town with a world-class resource as far as people who know things,” Schultz said. “In this society, technical and scientific skills tend to be critical. A goal here is to talk about science.”
He talked about using corn to make ethanol and discussed problems that would occur if the country’s vehicles all switched to corn ethanol. A participant raised a question about using switch grass for ethanol, and Schultz spoke about it as well as many other alternative fuels. He emphasized that there would not be just one solution.
Science cafes will be held at the Cherry Street Artisan on the first Tuesday of the month for the rest of the year. The next will be on May 6. The next topic will be determined by public requests.
What would you like to learn more about at a science cafe?