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

Saturday, July 26, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT


Paquin sent packin'?

Anticipating a tight budget for fiscal year 2009, the city of Columbia is pondering whether to eliminate the Adaptive Recreation programs at Paquin Tower, a 200-apartment high-rise in east Columbia occupied primarily by seniors, people with disabilities and those with limited mobility. The building is owned by the Columbia Housing Authority.

The program, which costs the city's Parks and Recreation Department $88,000 per year, offers art classes such as acrylic painting, crafts and ceramics. The program also provides transportation for residents to grocery stores and to destinations beyond the city limits, such as Amish country and baseball games. Although the program is open to the public, it is primarily geared toward Paquin residents who might otherwise lack a means of interacting with the community.

Residents have bemoaned the potential loss of the program, but City Manager Bill Watkins has said it is expensive and serves a limited group of people. Further, the housing authority has said it would not put any of its own money into the program.

With an annual parks and recreation budget of more than $12.5 million, what other options might the city have for cutting expenses?

GETABout Priorities

The City Council last week finally approved a list of GetAbout Columbia infrastructure priorities. The proposed projects include construction and improvement work on bike trails, sidewalks and intersections with the goal of encouraging a "modal shift" from driving cars to using bicycles. The decisions were based on public feedback and recommendations from the GetAbout Columbia Advisory Committee.

A July 18 letter written by Ian Thomas, executive director of the PedNet Coalition, addressed concerns that trail connectors might lead to an increase in crime and a reduction in property values. Thomas cited studies from other cities that counter those worries, and he said additional trail segments would provide better access to the citywide trail system for thousands of residents.

GetAbout funding comes from a $22 million federal Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program grant. After Tuesday's meeting, the total estimated cost of the priority projects stands at $12.5 million - with $13 million set aside. An additional $2.5 million has been set aside for promotions and advertising, $1.5 million for planning and project management and $2 million for bike lanes, routes and parking in the city center.

Estimated start dates for construction range from February 2009 to September 2010, although projects are still subject to final approval by the council.

How will the planned projects alter the landscape of your neighborhood?

On borrowed time

Eager to see significant changes in the Stadium Boulevard corridor between Interstate 70 and Broadway, the City Council on Monday voted to borrow $10.8 million from the state to finance much of the work.

The city's "buy now, pay later" move will speed up the project, which will include work on Stadium and on side streets - including Bernadette Drive, Worley Street and Ash Street - that feed traffic into the congested area.

The council vote amended an agreement with three nearby transportation development districts - the Columbia Mall, Shoppes at Stadium and Stadium Corridor Transportation Development Districts - that are collecting a half-cent sales tax to fund part of the project. The city will repay the $10.8 million loan over the course of the next 10 years using revenue from the TDDs' sales taxes, at an interest rate of 3.92 percent.

The overall cost of the project is estimated at $19.8 million; the state will pay the $9 million difference.

What are the pros and cons of using this revenue to pay for major road projects?

One-sided forum

With little more than a week remaining until the Aug. 5 primary election, local and state politicians have been attending a flurry of forums to explain their platforms to voters in person.

A forum hosted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Tuesday night attracted Democratic candidates or representatives of 17 different campaigns. They discussed issues such as health-care reform, the use of Tasers, the death penalty, their opponents' voting records and their involvement with the NAACP - among other issues.

While the audience heard a lot from Democrats, Republicans were notably absent: Only Republican Kurt Schaefer, who's running for the 19th District state Senate seat, sent a representative to the forum. The lack of GOP attendance prompted one audience member to complain that Republicans routinely ignore the concerns of black voters.

How can Republicans explain their collective absence from the NAACP forum?


Shameless promotion, 2.0

As the Missourian prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday, the nonagenarian publication underwent a bit of reconstructive surgery this week. On Tuesday night, the Missourian launched a redesign of its Web site,

At first glance, the site may appear similar to its predecessor, but look more closely and you'll notice several new and improved features. These include an improved search function, a scrolling icon menu at the top of the home page, a list of latest comments submitted by readers like you, a more up-to-date most-read stories list, and a more navigable multimedia menu at the bottom of the page.

The new site, which is the result of months of work by the Missourian's technical crew, is also more stable, which means you'll be able to more reliably get your scoops any time of the day. Users are encouraged to offer their feedback on the new site. The Missourian first went online in 1992 and has been in print since 1908.

How does the format of a newspaper Web site affect the way you consume the daily news?


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