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

Saturday, July 5, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:10 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mandate matters

Missouri’s ethanol mandate has come under fire from Republican gubernatorial candidate and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who blames the mandate for contributing to rising food prices.

The state ethanol mandate took effect in January. It requires that gas stations sell gasoline with a 10 percent ethanol blend whenever it costs less than traditional gasoline. Steelman, however, argued we’re putting too much corn in our tanks and not enough on our tables.

Due to an Environmental Protection Agency requirement, 9 billion gallons of ethanol gas will be produced this year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that that would eat up one-third of this year’s corn crop.

While proponents argue that ethanol is better for the environment and inching the nation closer to independence from other countries’ oil, it can also result in lower gas mileage.

Are we paying for the ethanol mandate in the pantry and at the pump?

They’re just so shocking

Given that 38 Columbia police officers are equipped with Tasers, and that 50 more will be soon, the community is looking closely at the merits of such a weapon.

Members from Grass Roots Organizing, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union and and the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation met Monday in hopes of persuading the City Council to reconsider its decision to arm the majority of Columbia police with the weapons.

Questions on the groups’ collective minds include whether Tasers are truly non-lethal weapons and whether they endanger the people they’re used to shock.

But one thing’s for sure: Injuries to police officers have fallen from 25 in 2004, when no officers had Tasers, to five in 2007, when 38 Tasers were in use.

Are Tasers the best way to balance the desire to protect our police from injuries? What alternatives would you propose that police use for dealing with unruly people?

Another one rides the bus

Last summer, a gallon of gas would have cost you about $2.84. Oh, how things have changed.

Gas prices are inching upwards with the temperature this summer, sometimes as much as 10 cents a day.

With the Columbia gasoline prices hovering just below $4 a gallon, folks all over the city are looking for ways to cut back. Others have had enough.

Columbia Transit has reported a 16 percent increase in the number of people taking the bus compared to this time last year. And although the city bus system is hardly perfect — it grinds to a halt at 6:22 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and doesn’t run at all on Sundays or holidays — it is a way to save some money on fuel.

What is the highest price you can/are willing to pay for gas, and what will you sacrifice to make it happen?

Happy trails, Athena?

Athena Night Club has closed its doors. The owners of the club, Daniel Veros and Rashid Kikhia, have decided not to appeal the revocation of their business licenses by the Columbia Business License Office.

Veros and Kikhia also own New York Famous Pizza and Nikai Grill.

Athena had been the subject of noise complaints, liquor law violations and fights for the past several months. It made headlines when MU basketball player Stefhon Hannah suffered a broken jaw in a January fight at the nightclub. In May, three people were arrested and another was injured when gunshots were fired outside the business.

Was Athena a threat to the community? Do you think it deserves to be closed? What message does the revocation of its license send to other local business owners?

Consultant ban

There’s an old adage advising that there are two things the public should never see made: laws and sausage.

If the saying rings true, bills and the politicians who make them are not always as pure and true as we think.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder spoke in Columbia on Tuesday about a ban he has proposed that would prohibit elected officials from serving as consultants or as fundraisers for others’ campaigns. The goal is to avoid tainting public trust with the agendas of special interest groups.

While there may be no hope for a cleaner process for bratwurst, kielbasa or boudin, bills and the people who make them might be less, well, bologna.

How would a ban on elected officials serving as consultants to other politicians affect your faith in state government?

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