LETTER: First Night Columbia events should be free

Friday, December 26, 2008 | 1:44 p.m. CST; updated 11:24 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do I have better things to do than write this letter during the Holiday Season? Yes, but I think this is also the perfect time to remember others … especially those in our community who are families of low income. That’s why The Missourian’s Dec. 25  front page story "First Night Columbia offers new venue, aims for family fun” hit me hard and calls for a response.

On the surface, Columbia’s First Night sounds like fun and an opportunity to experience a variety of cultural events aimed to celebrate community and the birth of the New Year. However, the price of the "button" results in excluding many of our families of low income (and even many middle-income families) because the admission fee is unaffordable to them. This would not be so offensive if it were not so heavily taxpayer funded. On Nov. 3, 2008, the City Council again voted unanimously to allocate $29,000 to First Night. ... And this cash contribution does not even include the taxpayers’ in-kind support of buses, police, fire, and sanitation crews, wages paid to parks and recreation personnel, and the use of public buildings.

Concerned citizens have tried to meet again with the First Night Board, but, for the past two years, board leaders have consistently refused to even sit down and talk about what could be done to improve access. I and others have likewise appealed to our City Council members, but they have not improved access to all.

The best solution would be to do what places like Austin, Texas, does with their First Night Celebration … they open up all music and art events (seating is “first come-first served”) and produce a truly uniting celebration for all in the Austin area. If this cannot be done by next year and, if Columbia’s First Night Board still intends to obtain taxpayer funding, they should at least make more buttons available for free and advertise in all their promotional materials where and when these would be available for families where button cost is a barrier. Even though asked for in the past, it has not happened. Both last year and this year they have also refused requests from Neighborhood Associations within the First Ward and other nonprofit organizations who wanted to give buttons to very needy families they personally knew.

Columbia’s First Night event, in the heart of the city, falls short of a key holiday message — that all are to be included and welcomed. In contrast, on this first night of a new year, the event sends a cold, negative message that “some families” can participate and “other families” cannot.

What kind of a community do we want? Potential attendees, business sponsors, Columbia City Council members, First Night Board members, volunteers, as well as Boone County, church, and school officials (who make their buildings available for First Night use) should think about what they are saying to our families who have very limited financial resources, reassess their participation and act to turn this divisive scenario into a truly uniting celebration.


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Ayn Rand December 26, 2008 | 3:42 p.m.

Here we go again. The board set aside 800 free tickets for the 2007 event. Those were given to organizations such as the Voluntary Action Center. Why don't Mary and others who feel that isn't enough buy tickets and then give them to people who say they want to go but can't afford to?

It would be great if the Missourian would find out how many of those 800 tickets were actually used.

(Report Comment)
Robert craig December 29, 2008 | 5:47 p.m.

As I'm not a resident of Columbia, I wasn't aware that 800 tickets were available for free. That seems pretty generous to me. To that end, I'd be curious to know how many attendees actually go to this event.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 29, 2008 | 6:43 p.m.

Robert Craig: That is a great question. "Free tickets" should be redeemable for a button only at the event, (not in advance as they currently allow), and someone could count the number of "free tickets" turned in.
(If 800 free tickets are distributed and only 200 non-paying people show up, then there's a problem with who gets these "free tickets" in the first place.)
In my opinion, the event should have a suggested minimum $5 voluntary contribution per person, $10 family tag attached to it. If they don't get enough "contributions" from those who can "afford" it, they can cut back on expenses next year.
Curently, in addition to the reported 800 free tickets, if you volunteer some time, you recieve free admission. There's also free activities to all, such as the children's procession, people's procession, Missouri United Methodist's free activity room events, entertainment at the courthouse square and fireworks for everyone.
If you didn't get a "free ticket" and can afford the expected $8 you'll get more than you can handle in one night. (I think that's the last night and not "First Night" as it's called.)
Either way, Happy New Year, Columbia!

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 30, 2008 | 2:52 p.m.

According to Cindy Mustard, director of the Voluntary Action Center, in a post today to the Old Southwest and Broadway Yahoo group: "We saw 1400 families through our office in December and the majority of the folks we talked with about the passes were not interested. We made a concerted effort this year to give the passes to famiiles that truly wanted to attend. Last year we gave out 240 passes and only 14 were used."

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 30, 2008 | 3:59 p.m.

If those stats of 14 out of 240 tickets actually being used are accurate, then "free tickets" isn't the issue.
I see no problem regarding "access" to this event.
I think that it is by choice that some people do not attend.
Over the years, I rarely see a good turnout from the "black community" and have witnessed a small group of wheelchair-bound folks.
With 800 "free tickets" available, that's a good indication that Mary Hussman is barking up the wrong tree.
The only access problem I see is that Mary Hussman has no direct access to the First Night board.
Maybe the board has their own private, personal agenda.
Maybe Mary Hussman has hers.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 30, 2008 | 4:19 p.m.

This is a prime example of the kind of topic that the Missourian should be covering instead of the QB's girlfriend. This topic has come up for at least the past two years, largely because of letter-writing campaigns by Hussman and others. So it's easy for the public to get the impression that many people want to attend FS but can't afford to. Yet if statements by Cindy and others are correct, that's simply not the case.

Nevertheless, the damage is done: The board and the whole event come across as elitist because the press doesn't question these accusations and criticisms. This situation isn't limited to First Night. There are plenty of other examples, ranging from YouZeum to scholarships.

Why is it so hard for the Missourian (or the Tribune, KOMU or KMIZ) to ask simple questions such as how many free tickets/passes are available and how many of those are actually used?

(Report Comment)
Robert craig December 30, 2008 | 9:14 p.m.

Ayn and Ray: thank you! You addressed my initial thoughs on this in a wonderful fashion. My suspicion has always been that people and communities are more than generous. The problem is typically someone (or some group) that has an agenda to "expose" the supposed lack thereof and continue to ask for more.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 31, 2008 | 8:38 a.m.

In her 2007 letter (, Mary acknowledges that 800 free tickets were available. So why doesn't this year's letter discuss how many were used?

(Report Comment)
Linda Green December 31, 2008 | 10:57 a.m.

It is not generally known that there are free tickets because they are not advertised. And even if you know there are some free tickets, who knows where to get them? And if the Voluntary Action Center is the only place free tickets are available, why is that? Has anybody ever said you could get free tickets by going to the Voluntary Action Center and asking for them? Who gets asked and by whom if they want free tickets--do you have to part your hair right to get asked, and if free tickets are conferred as charity or a favor, isn't that a bit demeaning? Could this be a factor in why people didn't want the free tickets that were offered?

Why were neighborhood associations and a nonprofit, who wanted free tickets to distribute, denied? Why so much secrecy and control? Are there certain classes of people that the First Night Committee is trying to keep out? And let's not forget that everybody who lives in Columbia is paying for First Night through sales taxes, and yet those who cannot afford tickets are kept from benefiting. I like the idea of Free First Night for everyone and if you can afford it, make a donation at the door. If everyone in the public is paying through sales taxes, everyone should get in as a free public event--it's only fair.

The First Night Committee does a good job in planning, though I wonder if the expense could be cut down by having fewer out-of-town performers? We should definitely pay performers adequately, but our town is full of talented performers and we wouldn't be paying travel expenses. Also my experience is that several of the larger locations have room for a lot bigger audience, so I wonder if we need the expense of so many venues going on at the same time?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 31, 2008 | 12:24 p.m.

Linda, the free tickets have been publicized in the press and via organizations, such as the VAC (above), that are closest people who qualify for them.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 31, 2008 | 12:56 p.m.

Reference this story here too:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 31, 2008 | 1:35 p.m.

Dear Linda:
Qustion: Who's ultimate responsibility is it to know what's going on around them and who's ultimately responsible for knowing what's available?
Answer: You are.
While it would be "nice" if there was no charge for a "First Night Button," why do many of the people who can afford the $8 complain and what makes you think "hairstyle" has anything to do with being "offered" a free pass?
If you cared at all about our community's non-profit health and human care services network in Columbia, you would know that Voluntary Action Center also serves as the Information and Referral arm of our local United Way.
(If you didn't know that, you know that now.)
A simple call to United Way would have sufficed.
There were and are many other agencies and community people who would have given you a "free ticket." (Parks & Rec included.)
As far as demeaning... I'm always grateful, appreciative and say thank you whenever I accept a gift.
There's nothing demeaning in that, is there?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 31, 2008 | 2:17 p.m.

If people aren't taking these passes because they find them demeaning, do they also decline to take food stamps, housing assistance and other social services? Those of us whose taxes fund those services are tired of the complaining. Beggars can't be choosers.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 31, 2008 | 3:30 p.m.

Ayn Rand on alot of the Food Stamp issue you can blame your Federal Government in how they handle this on a sliding scale instead of a "flat rate" across the board.

I have heard some totally ridiculous stories of recipients only getting $5-10 per month on this program while others who have the same incomes and like bills getting over $100 per month.

The only thing that would be good for that program is to as I say "Flat Rate" it to a set amount across the entire board per month per recipient.

Now you ask what I think a modest and fair set amount might be? From my own point of view I would say with all of the services and food banks available nation wide to get food distributions from that would be the amount of $30.00 per recipient. If that recipient has kids I can see a little bit more of coarse.

Back on topic: I think admission should be free to First Night if the tax payers are already footing the main bill for it and as somebody said a "donation" at each door entry.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 31, 2008 | 4:04 p.m.

If taxpayers are already "footing the bill" and some want in for free, why should I have to pay for a membership at the ARC? Why should a softball team have to pay a fee to play at Rainbow?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro December 31, 2008 | 4:30 p.m.

--It's New Year's Eve. I suggest everyone finds something you can afford and celebrate. As for me, I'm not going to complain about anything, for the rest of the year. There will be plenty of time in 2009 to do just that:
Tickets to see John Legend perform at a club called Prive were still available.At nearby Mansion, where Lindsay Lohan and gal pal Samantha Ronson were to host an event, organizers were hustling to sell VIP tables ranging from $1,500 to $5,000.
Las Vegas casinos were putting on a midnight fireworks display and daredevil acts, including a 200-foot jump over the refurbished volcano at The Mirage hotel-casino by Robbie Knievel, son of the late Evel Knievel.
Australia, was the world's first major city to ring in 2009, showering its shimmering harbor with a kaleidoscope of light that drew cheers from more than a million people.
A big crowd was expected at the famous ball drop in Manhattan despite forecasts calling for temperatures in the low teens and wind chills as low as minus 5 degrees.
Elkhart, Ind., planned a party at its outdoor skating rink, with volunteers leading some games.
Advance ticket sales for the U.S. Bank New Year's Eve bash in Madison, Wis., were up 20 percent from a year ago, spokeswoman Lisa Clark said. A $10 family pass buys access to a family-oriented celebration involving music, magicians, hay rides and fireworks.
"What can you do for $10 anymore?" Clark asked, adding, "For someone trying to pinch pennies and yet still have a good time, this is a good bargain."
Philadelphia will celebrate New Year's Day with its more than century-old Mummers Parade, though it had fallen into jeopardy when city officials withdrew about $400,000 in support.
After weeks of limbo, the Mummers Association successfully raised enough private donations to continue the pageant filled with flamboyantly dressed performers, sometimes described as the city's Mardi Gras.
Rich Porco, a Mummer for 51 years, said the uncertainty made this "one of the worst years I've ever been involved with."
Instead of preparing for the festivities, "you found yourself thinking more about, 'Is there going to be a parade?'" Porco said. "It was hard."
In Pasadena, Calif., hundreds of thousands of spectators were expected for the Rose Parade. Organizers said any economic hit they might have suffered was lessened because commitments to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on floats have been in place for at least a year.
"We may or may not feel the effects of the economy this year, but more likely next year," Tournament of Roses Chief Operating Officer Bill Flinn said. "We do feel one of our jobs is to bring optimism at a time when things are not so good for so many people."
And plenty of Americans seemed ready to celebrate...

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 31, 2008 | 5:16 p.m.

Where do the freebies and discounts end? There are already deep discounts for the Douglass Pool and the ARC, for example. Those of us who enable those discounts by paying taxes are tired of the freeloaders.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr December 31, 2008 | 5:44 p.m.

Ayn Rand with no "incentives" to make this so called "diversified city" more appealing how do you expect to draw people,business',tech schools and others to move here?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand December 31, 2008 | 7:21 p.m.

Chuck, Columbia's population in 1990 was 69,101. In 2000, it was 84,531. Today it's more than 94,000. Columbia clearly is having no difficulty attracting and retaining residents. As much as you complain about this city, you're still here, aren't you?

As for Hussmann's complaints, it's nice to see the Tribune setting the record straight (

"Organizers set aside 200 passes for agencies serving low-income individuals or people with disabilities or addictions, including the Salvation Army, Phoenix Programs and Family Counseling Center of Missouri. In addition, 225 passes were given this year to the Voluntary Action Center, which distributed them between Dec. 1 and Dec. 19, First Night co-director Karen Ramey said. Any leftover passes were redistributed to the other organizations. Other free passes have been given to Lee Expressive Arts Elementary, festival volunteers, performers and 5-K runners and walkers. In all, First Night Columbia organizers have given away nearly 2,000 complimentary passes, Ramey said."

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 1, 2009 | 1:07 a.m.

I haven't posted since last year. Happy 2009!
There was such a small turnout at each of the First Night venues, (except for the fabulous hour of the piano feud beween Sutu Forte & Dr. Neves at the Missouri Theatre), that my girlfriend and I spent the later part of the evening at Mojos.
It was warmer and friendlier and we made our own fireworks.
First Night issues are much to do about nothing. If anything, it's too spread out, too long and not too highly attended.
Next year, they can cut back on activities and make it free to everyone.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 3:12 a.m.

I went to sleep as most normal people do. I was awakened at 9:35 pm to the sound of fireworks at which time I leaned up on an elbow and watched from my window. It was a nice display.

Afterward I went right back to sleep to be awakened at midnight to the sound of more fireworks but just rolled over and went back to sleep.

By ray shapiro's honest reporting I did not miss much.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 3:24 a.m.

>>> Columbia's population in 1990 was 69,101. In 2000, it was 84,531. Today it's more than 94,000. <<<

If you are going tom present a number break it down into it's true figures so we can really see what it represents.

How many of those are "transient student" populations?

How many are retired non working?

How many are non working home makers?

How many are disabled?

How many are in local hospitals?

How many are in retirement homes?

How many live here semi annually but own homes here?

How many are here only on jobs from out of town for an extended period of time say a year or so?

Show us all some real numbers so we can see the entire picture.

Now let's see also if they are going to tell us all how many of those "free passes" actually were used?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 1, 2009 | 11:52 a.m.

Chuck, if you want those figures, go look them up. I'm not going to do research for you. Besides, you're asking all of these questions to try to distract from the fact that despite what you say, the population figures -- along with the fact that you moved here and remain here -- all show that Columbia clearly is having no difficulty attracting and retaining residents.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 1:09 p.m.

Well Ayn Rand you are always asking me for numbers or quotes or links I just thought I would return the favor as after all if you are going to be asking others for this type of information shouldn't you be willing to put it up yourself?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 1, 2009 | 4:10 p.m.

Chuck, face it: Once again, you've dug yourself a hole, and you usually try to get out by ranting that the other poster is "uneducated" and "not presenting the true facts as they really are." But most of us have learned by now not to chase after your red herrings. Besides, I wasn't the one "asking others for this type of information." You were in your 3:24 a.m. post.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 4:39 p.m.

Oh Ayn Rand once again you go posting up some figures but dodging the simple question of exactly what those numbers represent.

Once again you dodge the issue by trying to blame others for your short comings.

You were the one that tossed out that number saying it represented something not myself. I just asked you for the number break down that is all.

Do you have a problem in actually showing all of us how that number you conjectured up is actually broken down?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 1, 2009 | 4:47 p.m.

Chuck, if you want a demographic breakdown, go find it yourself. My point remains: Despite what you say, the population figures all show that Columbia clearly is having no difficulty attracting and retaining residents, including you.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 1, 2009 | 5:04 p.m.

Ayn Rand I asked you a simple question about the number you posted. It is not a hard thing for you to answer since you presented that number. It is not up to me to go research that number I did not present it you did.

If you do not want to be asked to back up those numbers you present then I suggest you do not present them.

You know how this works by now and it is not going to change no matter how many excuses you come up with.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 7:40 a.m.

And I gave you a simple answer: Find it yourself.

By the way, while you're looking, find those stats that prove Section 8 residents commit crimes more frequently than the rest of the population. Or have you conveniently forgotten how many people on two boards asked you to put up or shut up?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 8:33 a.m.

>>> And I gave you a simple answer: Find it yourself. <<<

Maybe you should practice your own advise since you still cannot answer my simple questions. Like the one you refuse to answer of "What is a true disability"? We still have not seen you answer in detail that one yet.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich January 2, 2009 | 8:57 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 9:06 a.m.

I'm not obligated to answer your questions, Chuck. And I've given you plenty of examples -- local and international -- of people who don't let physical and metal disabilities disable them. Go pester Hussmann or someone else.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 2, 2009 | 9:29 a.m.

Chuck, no matter what the subdivisions of Columbia residents shows, Ayn's comments that Columbia's population has increased over the years. Are you trying to dispute her overall argument by finding one itty-bitty population group that declined? If so, knock yourself out at

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 9:40 a.m.

Not by far John Schultz but Ayn Rand keeps tossing up these numbers with out presenting what they actually represent as far as the economic break downs of how the differences in the population groups effect this city as a whole.

The different population groups do effect this city's economy in various ways.

That is all I asked of Ayn Rand is for the break down. Nothing more.

Now instead of replying by a pissy posting as they did why didn't Ayn Rand just post a simple "I am not sure" or a "I have not really thought about it that way" would have been alot better.

Instead Ayn Rand comes back with some pissy pathetic and totally defensive excuse for not knowing.

Maybe John Schultz you like posters replying to you that way but I for one have no respect for those who do respond like that.

It was a simple question that could have been answered simply and politely but instead Ayn Rand once again goes on the defensive over something so simple as a question asked about something they posted.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 11:47 a.m.

Of course different population groups do effect this city's economy in various ways. For example, we should not strive to attract people who live on the dole instead of contributing their fair share.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 12:18 p.m.

Ayn Rand I wonder how many of those free 800 tickets were actually used this year at the event?

From ray shapiro's commentary crowds were light at the event locations he went to.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 12:24 p.m.

Ayn Rand so you are saying that with our real good V.A. facility and our real good University Hospital/Rehabilitation facilities that those disabled citizens who require those facilities should not move here to be closer to those facilities?

As well if you did not know Columbia is one of the best cities for most all recovery related programs in the entire midwest.

So people who need those services should not be allowed to move here either?

MMMMmmmmmmm with out alot of those people needing all of those services you sure would be hurting in the keeping those health care related workers in their jobs here.

Looks like your thinking is more exclusion than inclusion.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 12:31 p.m.

Only if they are paying for those services.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 2:09 p.m.

"First Night distributed about 425 buttons to local organizations to give away to families and individuals with financial troubles, disabilities or struggles with addiction.

"Ensuring these free passes get to those who want them can be a challenge. The Voluntary Action Center receives 225 passes each year to give to its clients, many of whom are low-income. However, last year only 14 of those actually attended the festival.

"'We made a concerted effort this year to get them to families who would try to go down to' the festival, VAC executive director Cindy Mustard said. 'We tried to give them to families with kids.'

"Although the center closed its doors on Dec. 19 for the holiday season, Mustard received several requests from low-income families and individuals who still wished to receive a pass.

"On Wednesday morning, she reopened the office and gave away the remaining 16 buttons."

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 2, 2009 | 3:13 p.m.

My girlfriend and I showed up for "First Night" at 9p.m. (sans kids.)
I don't know where "co-director Karen Ramey's estimated 12,000 people figure" comes from. (Nothing like self-indulgence.)
Is this the same Karen Ramey who is employed by Mike Hood of Parks and Recreation?
I didn't see any number close to a total of 12,000 as I went around to the venues.
There was also, what I consider, the smallest group at the 9:30 fireworks, as of yet.
If 12,000 tickets were sold and distributed, there were obviously many "no shows" and early departures.
This event needs to be re-worked.
It is too spread out, too long, disjointed, too expensive and needs to be redefined as to whether it's focused on children or adults.
(Gee, I all ready miss the Twilight Festival. Thanks for nothing, Columbia.)

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 3:36 p.m.

So if the VAC passed out all 225 passes this year, so much for Green's (above) complaint that "it is not generally known that there are free tickets because they are not advertised."

Does this mean Hussmann will finally quit complaining?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 3:39 p.m.

>>> Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 12:31 p.m.
Only if they are paying for those services. <<<

Now you are obviously trying to be "exclusive" instead of working to be more "inclusive".

On ray shapiro's report yes Karen Ramey does work for Mike Hood.

They might have given away all 800 free tickets but the question is "How many were actually redeemed or used" at the event? How many of those actually showed up? That is the question.

Being we keep hearing that the First Night Committee is pretty much a closed group will we actually know or see some real numbers or will we see inflated numbers.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 4:09 p.m.

What's wrong with being exclusive? You have no qualms about excluding criminals from Section 8 housing because they increase costs for the community (e.g., more police). I don't see why we should be inviting ANY people who increase costs for the community, such as by using social services that they can't or won't pay for. And no, the sales taxes that they pay and the Medicaid payments to doctors frequently don't begin to cover the costs that the community bears, so they're a net loss.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 2, 2009 | 4:21 p.m.

Ayn Rand what cost exactly does the overall community bear if it is mainly Federally Funded?

Do you even actually know how much in taxes it is per person in the United States for each of these citizens you do not want in "your town"?

Maybe ray shapiro can shine some light on that number per chance?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 4:44 p.m.

Chuck, one of the reasons why many states (e.g., California) are looking for a federal hand-out is because of the soaring cost of Medicaid. Why on earth would a state or city want to invite people who incur such costs?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 2, 2009 | 7:16 p.m.

How dare you pull me into an aspect of this article that has very little to do with "First Night."
Considering that you have coerced me on a Friday night, where personal access to up-to-date figures are not readily available, and considering that you have "twisted my arm" to speak up, I guess I'll have to put my 2 cents in, anyway.
Social programs, paid by American Taxpayers, create cash flow, as demonstrated partially in the following article:

The amount of voters, renters, mortgage holders, children enrolled in schools, medical/psychiatric patients, prescription fillers, automobile insurance customers, food stamp users, single Moms, (using and abusing AFDC), some harworkers for low pay and/or community volunteers, and many others are welcomed by yours truly as long as they don't effect my quality of life, intefere with my serenity and do not commit crimes.
Politicians and those who financially benefit from the cash flow, of a population made up of all kinds of people, don't seem to mind either. In fact, some parts of this state have politicians, lawyers, government workers, judicai courts and a prison system that benefits from "working with the criminals" and other government and non-profit 501c3 organizations who become part of that "criminal client" cash flow.
And churches also love saving the souls of each and everyone of us, no matter how, or where, we may get our goods and services.
Ayn: While I can understand your concern for financially paying for someone else's way, (and I agree that reform is long overdue), I suggest you ask your accountant the following question:
"Of all the taxes I pay, what is the actual dollar amount I personally pay so that my wheelchair-bound neighbor is able to get Medicaid?
If your accountant is real good, he may also be able to tell you exactly how much you paid for someone elses "free ticket" to First Night, as well.
(You are such a philanthropist!)

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 2, 2009 | 10:03 p.m.

Ray, for one, why isn't my wheelchair-bound neighbor working? I've posted lots of examples of wheelchair-bound people who hold full-time jobs.

For another, it's more than one person. MO spent about $6.5 billion on Medicaid in 2006. (43 percent of that went to the disabled.) MO has about 5.8 million residents. I don't know how many of those pay taxes, but even if you divide $6.5 billion by 5.8 million, that's still a lot more than a FN ticket. And we're not even counting the additional amount paid in federal taxes that goes to match what the states pay.

For starters, let's boot off the people who are on Medicaid because their disability is due to poor lifestyle choices, including refusing to make changes after a diagnosis of, say, diabetes. Do I really need to post the link to that Missourian article again?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 2, 2009 | 10:58 p.m.

I can't answer for your wheelchair-bound neighbor who is on Medicaid, but I know why my disabled neighbors don't have enough financial income and in two other cases, why they have too much income to qualify. Maybe you should get to know your neighbors a little bit better, so that you don't have to ask me why your neighbors don't have well-paying jobs. Low income people diagnosed with disabilities rarely bite the fingers of the people, like yourself, who "feed" them. (They might bite your head off, though.) And, if you want me to modify my question, I will. Ask your accountant how much of your personal money, from your personal taxes, goes to Medicaid. If your accountant is real good, he can apply the same formula to discover how much of your personal tax dollar went for "free tickets for First Night."
Also, I agree that there is the need for reform in our social health and welfare programs, and powers greater than myself will/should be held accountable to see that those in need will get help from either the government, non-profit 501c3 agencies, the private sector, churches or family/friends.
And, Diabetes has nothing to do with "First Night." But if you plan on bringing that article out, please give me a 5 minute warning so that I may take my insulin.
It would be a real "bummer" if you threw me into coma.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr January 3, 2009 | 2:53 a.m.

ray shapiro sorry there guy just I remembered you talking about this same subject before on this site.

Hook up later today and I'll buy ya lunch.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 3, 2009 | 11:14 a.m.

As a society, we cannot afford to continue to enable and subsidize unhealthy lifestyles. If you're on Medicaid and have diabetes, and if you refuse to make the lifestyle changes that your doctor recommends, your Medicaid either should be cut off, or you should be required to pay a steep co-pay to recoup the burden that you expect everyone else to shoulder because you refuse to control yourself. Same thing for private insurance or whatever universal health care that the feds or state end up implementing.

And here's the article:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 3, 2009 | 11:51 a.m.

Yea, yea, yea, nice article. That guy must have had some kind of mental illness to go along with his diabetes. But did he live long enough to make it to "First Night?"

(Report Comment)
Robert craig January 4, 2009 | 9:31 a.m.

I've survived the holiday season and came back to review this post. Very interesting!
As Ms. Hussmann pointed out in her article:

"Columbia’s First Night event, in the heart of the city, falls short of a key holiday message — that all are to be included and welcomed. In contrast, on this first night of a new year, the event sends a cold, negative message that “some families” can participate and “other families” cannot.

What kind of a community do we want? Potential attendees, business sponsors, Columbia City Council members, First Night Board members, volunteers, as well as Boone County, church, and school officials (who make their buildings available for First Night use) should think about what they are saying to our families who have very limited financial resources, reassess their participation and act to turn this divisive scenario into a truly uniting celebration."

I asked how many people actually attend this event. From the posts above, it sounds like it's not very well attended and the premise of the author's comments are not well founded. Any time there is difficulty giving away free tickets, I find it hard to believe that the organizers are being "divisive". Maybe it's time for Columbia to reassess this event.

As for this discussion on taxes and social obligations, I would love to weigh in but feel it might just extend the originally intended purpose of this comment thread. Maybe one of us could write an Opinion piece to the Missourian on that issue!

(Report Comment)

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