For the sake of safety
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The Florida man arrested in connection with the robbery of the First National Bank at Broadway and Garth Avenue on Wednesday sent 40 police officers on a chase through the city streets.
The man entered the bank and brandished a gun at 3:30 p.m. He then left the bank and was spotted near an apartment complex near Doctor’s Park and in the foyer of RE/MAX Boone Realty. Police failed to tell officials at the neighboring Grant Elementary School of the situation until 3:46 p.m. — after students had been released for the day.
Teachers and administrators were set with a task of rounding up kids who were still on the school’s property and running down others who had already started their walk home from school. Although no students were injured or caught up in the chase itself, there was certainly a potential for danger.
Grant Principal Beverly Borduin spoke with Assistant Superintendent Jack Jensen on Wednesday night. Although the Columbia Police Department said it has procedures in place for notifying schools of dangerous situations, Borduin wanted to ensure that communication between school administrators and police is improved so that so that students are not put into harm’s way.
What measures should be taken to ensure better communication between school officials and the police department?
Athena owners face shutdown
On May 27, owners Daniel Veros and Rashid Kikhia were notified that their licenses to practice business were revoked by the Columbia Business License Office. This means that Athena night club, New York Famous Pizza and Nikai Grill are all closed pending the outcome of the owners’ appeal. Per city ordinance, a hearing must be scheduled in 21 days, and city officials must decide within 10 days after that whether to allow the businesses to reopen.
This year, the owners came under fire for the rowdy behavior of their patrons. In January, former MU basketball player Stefhon Hannah suffered a broken jaw in a fight at Athena. An employee also was injured in the fight. On May 18, three people were arrested and another was injured when gunshots were fired outside the club.
In addition to these two incidents, the club had become notorious for noise, fights and liquor law violations.
City Business Office Administrator Janice Finley said she revoked the business licenses of Veros and Kikhia under a city ordinance that prohibits license holders from conducting “business in an unlawful manner, or in such a manner as to constitute a breach of the peace, or constitute a menace to the health, safety or general welfare of the public.”
Should owners be responsible for the behavior of their clientele? And what can they do to help alleviate chronic problems with crime on their properties?
It takes green to go green
The Power Supply Task Force presented the findings of a report prepared by a consultant to a group of 40 people Wednesday night. The report compared the different options the city has for meeting its energy needs through 2027 and what it might do to alter utility customers’ energy consumption. It emphasizes methods of reducing the city’s demand for energy.
Residents at the meeting said they favor incorporating renewable resources — including wind power, a biomass plant and solar panels on commercial rooftops — into the city’s energy strategies.
One of the ideas in the report is to create rebate programs and other incentives to get people to use less electricity. The city already has some incentives in place to entice residents to buy more efficient air conditioning systems or solar water heaters. Unfortunately, even with the rebates, people interested in “going green” will be shelling out some serious cash. A solar water heater that will stand up to the frosts of Missouri winters, for example, will run about $32,000 to $35,000.
But then there’s the Earth to think about. According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States produces 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Most of those emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels.
Are you willing to shell out more money in the name of energy conservation?
Where to place this old house
The relocation of the historic shotgun house at Garth Avenue and Worley Street remains up in the air. Owners of the home have put their plans on hold as the city and the Boone County Historical Society consider two proposals.
Brian Treece and Mike Martin assembled a team of investors to buy the home, and they worked out an agreement with the historical society to relocate it to Boone Junction in Nifong Park in southeast Columbia, where the historic Pop Collins Cabin and the Easley Store currently stand. The historical society has agreed that if someone else covers the cost of relocating the house, it would foot the bill to restore it to its 1920s condition, create a display inside and staff it with volunteers.
Some Columbia residents have another idea, though. They want the house to be relocated to a lot adjacent to Douglass Park that the city bought in 2006. First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz supports this plan, arguing that it would be best to keep the home close to the black historical district, which was heavily impacted by the urban renewal effort that eliminated many shotgun houses.
If the house were moved to the Fifth Street lot, money for its restoration would have to come from the budget of the city Parks and Recreation Department. City staff say they also would have to hire an architect and engineering specialist to pull off the move.
Both Sturtz and Treece are looking for a speedy decision, because the city’s deadline for either restoring or demolishing the house is this month.
Where do you think the shotgun house should be moved and why?
Bullies on the CyberPlayground
Technology has changed bullying forever. The schoolyard skirmishes of old have been replaced by cyberthreats that can be more potent, more public and much more permanent.
In the past, family, teachers and police have corralled traditional bullying through the use of laws in place to prevent children who couldn’t always protect themselves. The problem is that there are no laws addressing cyberbullying, which can take place through online social networks, cell phone text messages, e-mail or other technologies.
On May 15, state Sen. Scott Rupp, R-St. Charles, presented a bill that would alter the legal understanding of harassment so that it can catch up with the times and the gadgets. If it became law, cyberbullying would be a crime. Ninth District U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Columbia, is co-sponsoring a similar bipartisan bill in Congress.
Both the Rupp and Hulshof bills were filed in light of the 2006 Megan Meiers tragedy that took place in St. Charles County. Meiers hanged herself in her closet after becoming hysterical during an argument with a boy she met through MySpace, a social networking site. But in reality the boy didn’t exist. Law enforcement officials say Lori Drew, Meiers’ 49-year-old neighbor, created a fake profile of the boy, established an online “friendship” with Megan then sent messages suggesting the boy had turned on her. Because there were no laws for this type of incident, no state criminal charges could be filed. Drew, however, has been indicted on federal charges of accessing protected computers without authorization.
Given the lack of laws on the books and the fact that many instances of cyberbullying are not reported, it seems clear this sort of harassment will continue.
What can be done to protect children from the new sorts of harassment that today’s technology makes possible?