A vehicle of promotion
Selling ad space on the sides of city buses may be one solution to the effects high fuel prices are having on Columbia Transit's budget.
The United States will go to the polls to elect a new president on Nov. 4. Before we go to the polls, let's have a conversation about how our lives here in mid-Missouri will be impacted.
Tell us: How will Columbia be affected by the next president?
Submissions will be printed at ColumbiaMissourian.com and in the Missourian during the week of Oct. 19. All we ask is that you sign your name and provide a telephone number (not printed; just there in case we have a question).
To send in your submission:
Postal delivery: Letter to Editor, P.O. Box 917, Columbia, MO 65205
With more money, the city could expand bus routes, run buses more frequently and keep prices subsidized for low-income passengers. But the bus system's budget — $5 million for fiscal 2009 — is already financially strapped. Columbia Transit is about $100,000 over budget just from fuel costs for 2008, according to the Public Works Department.
Similar proposals came before the city in 2007 and 2004. A 2007 report estimated billboard-style ads on each of Columbia's 26 full-size buses could generate between $1,000 and $1,600 each per year, an amount Paul Sturtz, First Ward councilman, called "pretty minimal." Wrap ads, where buses are wrapped in a layer of plastic with ads on it, could earn the city as much as $4,500 each per year, according to a 2004 report.
Two Midwest cities — Waterloo, Iowa, and Lincoln, Neb. — have successful bus advertising programs. Lincoln's Star Transit just finished its first year with ads on its 60 buses and collected $95,000. Waterloo projects earning $18,000 this year from 43 buses.
The city is not likely to decide the issue until at least early 2009.
How could ads on Columbia's public buses help or hurt local businesses?
Working for the children
Last week, more than 200 people attended the Missouri Department of Social Services conference on child abuse. Law enforcement officials, school teachers, social workers, medical professionals, prosecutors and a legislative assistant gathered for the two-day conference to refresh their understanding of child abuse and to plan prevention methods.
Bill Walsh, a retired lieutenant with the Dallas police department, gave most of the presentations, speaking from his 18 years of experience commanding Dallas' Crimes Against Children unit, which investigated child abuse and exploitation. Walsh said this was his fifth trip to Columbia to meet with the State Technical Assistance Team, the statewide agency that organized the conference.
The day before the group met to create strategies for child abuse prevention, a 28-year-old Columbia man pleaded guilty at a pretrial hearing to multiple charges stemming from the sexual molestation of a 6-year-old girl and possession of child pornography.
Luis Gerardo Pereida faced three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor child, two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and one count of possession of child pornography. Pereida will serve at most 25 years in prison.
And while it was too late to affect Pereida's sentence, Missouri recently increased the punishment for possession of child pornography. As of Aug. 28, a perpetrator can serve up to 15 years in prison for each video containing child pornography.
How big of an issue is child abuse, molestation and pornography in Columbia, and what should we be doing about it?
A sporting city
Thanks to the MU football program, residents of Columbia can now boast they live in the 60th best sports city in the United States and Canada.
That ranking in the Sporting News is up 28 spots from a year ago. Columbia is the third of the five ranked cities in Missouri, including St. Louis (No. 40), Kansas City (No. 55), Springfield (No. 154) and Cape Girardeau (No. 249).
"Columbia means the Tigers, and right now the Tigers mean football," Bob Hille, chief of correspondents for Sporting News, told the Missourian last week. "The team is back on the national stage, and its players are national award contenders."
The Tigers boast some of the better-known players in the nation. Chase Daniel made it to New York last year as a Heisman Trophy finalist. Jeremy Maclin is on many Heisman watch lists. Daniel, Maclin and tight end Chase Coffman are contenders for the Maxwell Award for college football's most outstanding player.
MU football has done its part to put Columbia fourth among cities with Big 12 schools, all of which are ranked in the top 120. Ahead of Columbia are Lawrence, Kan. (No. 14), Austin, Texas (No. 31), Norman, Okla. (47) and Boulder, Colo. (No. 7), which is included with the Denver ranking.
How can Columbia keep upping its status as a top sports city?
The drowning death of a 20-year-old woman last month has raised questions about stormwater control in Columbia, especially a problematic earthen dam at Welch Lake, about a mile upstream from Hominy Branch.
The dam's flood control device has been broken since 1997, and stormwater runoffs from a nearby golf course exacerbate flooding in the area. Debris and trash clog the dam's spillways and make it difficult to inspect for structural problems.
Danieal Miller, the dam's owner, has complained about the broken dam to the Boone County Commission since 1997. Minutes from a public forum recorded Miller telling the commission he couldn't pay for the repairs.
But the county's hands are tied. Enforcing proper upkeep of the dam is out of its jurisdiction, said Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin.
And it doesn't fall under the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' regulations, either. In 2005, an engineer sent to inspect the dam said the area was so heavily wooded he was unable to conduct a full investigation. As far as the engineer could determine, the dam does not meet the department's regulations.
However, the department only regulates dams 35 feet or taller. The Welch Lake dam is 22 feet tall. The department says responsibility lies with the property owner.
Who should be responsible for the Welch Lake dam, and what should be done?
Buying Fair Trade
When followers of Jesus Christ asked him what to expect of the kingdom of heaven, he compared it to a mustard seed, which starts as something tiny and grows into a shelter for the birds.
Mustard Seed, Columbia's newest Fair Trade store, hopes to be part of the movement that started small 10 years ago and has grown into a worldwide initiative.
The "Fair Trade" label means farmers and producers receive a fair share for creating goods using sustainable methods in safe work spaces. The movement began in 1998 after the coffee market was deregulated, but Fair Trade products now include products in 18 categories, including wine and athletic balls.
"The biggest misconception about fair trade is that it's charity," said Mustard Seed's executive director, Jessica Linneman. "Fair trade is actually doing the right thing and paying people fairly."
Mustard Seed runs as a nonprofit with Linneman as the only paid employee, which keeps as much money as possible going to the artisans of the jewelry, baskets and gift items from around the world.
Fair Trade items have outlets in stores around Columbia. Cherry Street Artisan, Kaldi's and Lakota serve Fair Trade coffee. The Peace Nook sells Fair Trade imports as an educational nonprofit. Even corporations like Wal-Mart, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks have Fair Trade products.
Why are Columbia residents looking for more Fair Trade outlets?