FIVE IDEAS: Funding the Roots 'N' Blues festival

Friday, October 3, 2008 | 5:53 p.m. CDT; updated 12:27 a.m. CDT, Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bringin' home the bacon

This weekend the smoky aroma of barbecued meat and the light sounds of the banjo will be wafting through downtown Columbia as the District hosts the second Roots 'N'Blues 'N' BBQ Festival.

Last year, the festival was a celebration of Boone County National Bank's 150th anniversary.  It was such a hit that the City Council agreed to give $100,000 to fund the event a second time.  The hope is that after this year, the festival will find more commercial support and be completely self-sufficient.

To help scrounge up bigger crowds this year, the festival will offer more food, more music and more fun.  Blues Bucks have gone out the window this year.  This means you can use your regular cold, hard cash to buy from the 22 public food stands, seven more than last year.  There will be 40 hours of live music from 27 different artists over the weekend, including Grammy winners Buddy Guy and Jerry Douglas.

The festivities kick off at 5 p.m. Friday and will continue until 11 p.m. Saturday.

Have organizers done enough to make sure the festival is self-sufficient in future years?

Does a VP debate really matter?

Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden met for the first time Thursday night at Washington University in St. Louis for the only vice presidential debate in the campaign.

The debate covered a wide-range of issues, including energy and oil, Iraq and Pakistan, health care and tax cuts. Both candidates were polished and prepped to play to their respective public speaking strengths, ready to impress the hordes of viewers who huddled around their screens to witness the highly popularized event. Palin used her small-town charm to paint herself as the Washington outsider she is, while Biden took a more authoritative approach toward disputing the policies of presidential hopeful John McCain.

Palin and Biden had a few missteps, too. Biden claimed that McCain had said he would refuse to sit down with the Spanish government.  In fact, McCain had never said he wouldn't absolutely commit to a meeting, but had said he couldn't commit to a meeting.  Palin, on the other hand, said that McCain's health care plan was "budget neutral."  However, budget experts have said that the McCain plan would actually cost tens of billions of dollars every year.

In total, there were seven misstated claims in the debate, according to the nonpartisan Web site

Who do you think won the debate?  How much does rhetoric play into that outcome? 

College education: who fronts the bill?

The affordability of higher education is a hot-button issue in a college town such as Columbia. Both major party candidates in Missouri's 9th Congressional District race have recently made efforts to discuss their policy positions on the funding of education.

Democratic candidate Judy Baker spoke at MU on Wednesday and said she thought an increase in federal spending was the answer. "There's plenty of money in the budget; it's just how you spend it and what you prioritize," she said.

Her Republican counterpart, Blaine Luetkemeyer, said he met with UM System President Gary Forsee to talk about the affordability issue.  Luetkemeyer said he wanted to see an increase in student scholarships, coupled with more affordable college loans.  He said he was a proponent of "standards and accountability in the classroom," but that funding needed to be spent in the classrooms, with a limited amount spent on administration.

The American Council on Education reports that private student loans increased ninefold between 1996 and 2005.  But, with the recent economic crisis, more and more students are struggling to find institutions that are willing to loan money for education, and often the tuition burden on individual students and their families is too heavy to bear.

In such economic times, whose responsibility is it to fund higher education?

The cost of Taser-use documentation

Grass Roots Organizing has been at the forefront of the debate over police use of Tasers in Columbia.  Over the summer, GRO and three other groups tried, to no avail, to convince City Council to re-examine its decision to purchase enough Tasers for almost all of the police department's patrol officers, bringing the total to 78.

Ed Berg, a GRO volunteer, recently asked the Columbia Police Department to hand over records of their Taser use, but the department's estimated $800 fee to complete the request is more than GRO can afford. Berg has filed a Sunshine Law request to get the information for free since, he says, it is in the public's interest.

Captain Zim Schwartze said GRO's request is the largest the department has ever receivedbecause most of the information will come from paper records.  She estimates it will take about 33 hours of department time to complete. And that's 33 hours of department time that could be spent on other public safety issues.

Do you think the information request is reasonable, given the public interest in the Taser issue?  Or, does this unnecessarily burden the Police Department?

Economic inquiries

There's certainly a lot of information swirling around about the bailout and its possible effect on our struggling economy.

The finger pointing is overwhelming: the Federal Reserve for cutting interest rates, home buyers who purchased outside their means to take advantage of cheap credit, the Clinton administration who lowered the credit and down payment requirements for the working- and middle-class, and Alan Greenspan for encouraging adjustable rate mortgages.  The list goes on and on.  The problem is that they are all right.  There was no one cause for the crisis; it was a team effort.

But how do we fix it?


Some say the bailout is the only way to reverse the economic downward spiral, while others worry it's an easy-way-out for financial institutions that arguably mismanaged their affairs.  It's hard for the average Joe to get his head around the issue.  After all, it seems that many of our elected officials, who are supposed to make decisions about this stuff, don't seem to understand it either.  

With all the jargon and complex theories floating around, it's important to focus not only on the components we understand, but also acknowledge what just simply doesn't make sense.

What things don't you understand about the economic crisis and the bailout?  Where do you turn for your answers?

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