Five Ideas: City taps brakes on red-light cameras

Saturday, December 20, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:35 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cameras on hold

The city's push to install red-light cameras has shifted into reverse. The City Council voted Monday to rescind its agreement with LaserCraft that would have had the company put up a pair of cameras at the intersection of Worley Street and Providence Road, theoretically before year's end.

The negotiations with LaserCraft have dragged on for more than a year now, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the city apparently became impatient with LaserCraft, leading Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine to remark, "We lost considerable faith in their ability."

The city's best-case scenario would have a new company picked by March, nearly guaranteeing that — if history is any lesson — installation won't occur until next winter at the earliest. By the time cameras are installed, the City Council itself could look very different from the one that authorized them in the first place.

Should the city keep working with private contractors to install red-light cameras?

Taser victim fires back at city's pocketbooks

The man police shot with a Taser in July at the conclusion of a suicide standoff submitted a $500,000 settlement offer to the city last week for injuries incurred from the incident. He fell 15 feet off a highway overpass following 90 minutes of negotiations with police.

He suffered a broken jaw and numerous fractures in his rib cage and arms, injuries for which the suit alleges the Columbia police are at fault.

Columbia police found that use of Tasers was appropriate within department protocol.

There is no question the situation could have been handled better — the police department admits as much in its investigation. But whether restitution is owed a man who willingly sought to take his own life by getting into the situation to begin with is debatable, even if the proposed sum was meager.

Should the city agree to the $500,000 settlement?

Higher 'education' takes a back seat in budget crunch

MU administrators met with faculty Wednesday night to discuss the reported 25 percent cuts to higher education envisioned by state lawmakers.

Chancellor Brady Deaton said that faculty layoffs weren't anticipated but, of course, "no promises can be made." The difficulty is bridging a funding gap that, if the budget weren't reduced, would see 2009's spending eat over $50 million into MU's 2010 operating budget.

One popular cost-cutting proposal was to adjust the thermostat two degrees up or down, a move that could save around $120,000 per year — or 1/500 of the budgeting shortfall.

While hindsight is 20/20, it's hard not to cast yet another skeptical eye at the $2.3 million football coach Gary Pinkel now makes per year. Announced in November, the contract increased his current contract by $45,000 per year, not including incentives. The problem, though, may not be so much the staggering sum — it was intended, after all, to be competitive with market value for a coach of his caliber — but where the money is coming from.

The athletics budget is "mostly self-supporting," Deaton says, which of course means that it doesn't completely pay for itself and certainly doesn't help subsidize academics, as much as the NCAA would like to convince you otherwise.

Is it acceptable at a state-funded university to subsidize athletics at the expense of academics?

Humane Society ponders mandatory drop-off fees

The Central Missouri Humane Society, strapped with mounting debt, is considering imposing mandatory intake fees for people who bring animals to the shelter. The $20 fee has actually been in effect since October 2007, but it isn't strictly enforced.

The worry is that such fees might dissuade people from bringing animals in at all. "They may dump animals on our property or elsewhere," said Maria Furey, a Humane Society board member. "Or worse, people may dispose of the animal."

But perhaps it's time for Columbia, Boone County or both to pony up.

The Columbia Heart Beat, a news blog written by Mike Martin, reported this week that private donations make up the bulk of the Humane Society's funding, totaling around $800,000 per year. The city of Columbia provides $100,000 annually, while Boone County doles out only $10,000.

Boone County North District Commissioner Skip Elkin told the Heart Beat that a "significant investment" from both the city and the county could be in the works.

Should the city and county work on a Humane Society bailout?

Is America ready for a Green New Deal?

The downtrodden economy has offered little relief for environmentalists hoping for a political environment ripe for green legislation. But it isn't stopping lawmakers from trying.

State Rep. David Sater, R-Cassville, has proposed a bill that would award hybrid car-buyers a tax break worth either 10 percent of the car's value or $2,000. Sater has also proposed tax breaks for purchases of solar cell technologies.

The knock against these proposals is the same one that continues to plague all things green: the cost. For all the savings that energy efficient technology can provide, cleaning up the environment still requires a lot of capital.

Many hope President-elect Barack Obama will tie "going green" to jobs creation. The public works plan he unveiled earlier this month does promise more energy efficiency in government buildings, but most of the jobs he hopes to create would be in infrastructure. Hardly a "Green New Deal."

What can the government do to make going green cost-effective?

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John Uehling December 22, 2008 | 11:01 a.m.

In response to the question about whether the man who was tasered deserves $500,000 for his injuries, I say NO. The fact that he fell 15ft onto grass after being tasered does not excuse the fact he was trying to commit suicide off the pedestrian bridge onto busy morning traffic, which would have endangered any number of innocent civilians below. He should in no way profit from this.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 22, 2008 | 11:14 a.m.

I don't believe that Mr. McDuffy fell onto grass, I think he landed on concrete.

(Report Comment)
John Uehling December 22, 2008 | 12:09 p.m.

If you look at the diagram the Missourian provided, it says explicitly that he landed on grass, rather than the concrete section of the roadway.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 22, 2008 | 12:27 p.m.

Interesting, I thought that would be concrete all the way across the I-70 corridor.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 22, 2008 | 12:27 p.m.

Oportunists sue all the time. This one will run its course like all the others.

It may have been safer, however, if the CPD or the Fire Department was able to secure the scene with nets or an air bag, as they do in other parts of the country.

Especially when this was a potential "jumper" which resulted in a taser incident from an elevated area.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 22, 2008 | 12:46 p.m.

The guy could have actually broken his neck and ended his life due to that Tasering and that would look one hell of alot worse on CPD than anything else at this time.

I'm not condoning what he did nor what the CPD did for that matter but it is obvious some of these posters across this entire city are only looking at this issue through their own personal sets of "Rose Colored Blinders" which does not say much at all for them.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 22, 2008 | 1:25 p.m.
This comment has been removed.

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