Four things we need to change for a better 2009

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

I suppose, like most everybody, I have opinions and suggestions to "fix" the world's problems — and which potholes could use repair — but below are a few changes I'd like to see in our community and our world.

1.) Out of control government spending: Perhaps the biggest immediate concern for our country I have is the continued assault on our economic and civil liberties. Particularly in this climate of financial "crisis," I feel a great populist support has been brewed up to take away more of our economic freedoms. Due to many bad actors (corporate swindlers, hyper-consuming citizens, and don't forget the numerous shady, manipulative, self-serving government officials) who over the years have had an insatiable appetite for cheap, easy credit, we are where we are now. Because some were foolish with their economic freedoms does not mean everyone else must pay for their foolish deeds in the way of bailouts to every Tom, Dick and Harry with his hand out. The U.S. taxpayers are now already $10.6 trillion in debt and growing every day, in fact we're really on the hook for more like $52.7 trillion worth of future promises (see

2.) Government accountable to the people: I wish that the government would actually return to serving the people, instead of the other way around. A great number of good, honest, law-abiding citizens live in fear of government; examples include the IRS (maybe I accidentally didn't fill out my tax return exactly right), the EPA (restrictions on land rights), city government (do I need a permit to repair my deck?), etc. A good number of politicians go to Washington (or Jefferson City) to get rich, and many make a career out of public "service." The press and the citizens must partner to somehow make the ever-expanding government accountable to "We The People" again.

3.) Can't we all just get along? I wish people with different views on cultural issues would have the guts to try to at least talk to each other, for a start. For example: you meet somebody at a party and you're chatting, then somehow the abortion topic comes up in conversation and you discover they're on the other side of the issue from you — I bet the conversation at that point either gets argumentative or just turns sour, and you both go find somebody else to get to know instead...too bad, because the monster of contentiousness will just live to rear its ugly head another day. Note: the toxic topic could just as well be global warming, separation of church and state, welfare, etc. Which is easier to talk to: a Jayhawk fan or a Republican? If we can't even talk to each other, we're all sunk.

4.) Appreciation of transportation diversity: I wish we could all peaceably travel throughout our community, no matter how we choose to get around. I ride a bicycle as my primary mode of getting around Columbia. I ride on the street, because that's where I'm supposed to be by law and it's safest overall. Most Columbia drivers are really pretty great, but though I ride as courteously as possible, that is not good enough for many automobile drivers, who often crowd me, ignore me, yell at me, cuss me, honk at me, etc. Some of this seems due to the fact that bikes are still a relative rarity out there, so cars and bikes aren't always sure how best to flow together; but it's the flagrant instances that a person remembers. Even when I do drive a car around town, many drivers treat our streets and roadways like their own personal race track — like it literally is a race they are engaged in — I often call it the "NASCAR mentality" (no offense to Carl Edwards fans). How does prudently slowing down around a sharp corner to 5 mph below the speed limit deserve being honked at from the car behind me? How do our raceway residential streets make parents feel about letting their (even supervised) kids play in the front yard? Can anybody give their journey an extra 2 minutes so we can all chill out on the road and so we can, among other things, all live in a more people-centric (as opposed to car-centric) community?

Steve Spellman hosts the KOPN/89.5 News at 5 on Tuesday nights from 5 to 6 p.m. and is a member of the PedNet Coalition.

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