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Five Ideas: Was it OK for MU students to rush the court?

Friday, February 13, 2009 | 3:51 p.m. CST

Tiger fans storm court after beating Kansas

After the Missouri men’s basketball team defeated Kansas 62-60 on Monday night, thousands of MU students flooded Norm Stewart Court and Mizzou Arena was transformed from basketball arena to complete madhouse.

In the days following the nationally televised ESPN game there has been some debate as to whether or not the students’ actions were justified. One side argues that the fans should have stayed in their seats considering the Tigers were ranked only one spot lower than the Jayhawks in the AP Top 25 poll and were expected by many to win. The argument is that storming the court shows that beating Kansas is unexpected and out of the ordinary, not exactly the kind of message you want to send to your biggest rival.

But others argue that the court storming was justified because of the dramatic nature of the Tigers’ victory over the Jayhawks. The Tigers trailed by as many as 14 points in the second half before Zaire Taylor’s last-second heroics put Missouri on top for good. And if Lil Wayne’s OK with it, then it can’t be that bad, right?

Still others contend that the celebration was less about beating Kansas and more about being back on the national radar after spending over five years in college basketball purgatory. It’s difficult to find a more tortured fan base than Tiger fans who have suffered through cheating scandals, coaching controversies and night club brawls

Q: Was it OK for the students to storm the court after beating Kansas? Was it a display of poor sportsmanship?

Deming bypasses selection process

Last week the Columbia School Board interviewed Skip Deming as the sixth superintendent candidate during an executive session of the board meeting. The board originally contacted Deming when it was looking for an interim superintendent after Phyllis Chase retired in August.

But Deming told the board he wasn’t interested in the position and cited travel commitments he had made, as well as the fact that Jim Ritter was available to fill the post, as reasons why.

Deming’s name came up again three weeks ago as the board was interviewing five candidates for the position. The board directly contacted Deming despite the fact that he had failed to put his application in. Deming expressed interest in applying and the board elected to postpone the previously scheduled candidate receptions in order to interview Deming. In the process, Deming bypassed formal phases of the selection process.

After his interview Deming was chosen as one of two finalists, along with Chris Belcher, for the position. Some are pegging Deming as the favorite to be elected despite the unorthodox selection process.

The biggest knock on Deming has been his lack of experience in the superintendent position, and after an open forum on Tuesday, some community members said they were concerned about Deming’s knowledge of the district.

But while Deming may lack superintendent experience, he has spent 26 years working as a custodian, teacher, principal, administrator and co-interim superintendent. The experience should provide him with a wide-range of knowledge of the inner-workings of the public school system.

Q: Are you OK with how the board handled the candidate selection process? Was the decision to let Deming bypass phases of the process fair to the other candidates?

Web site created to monitor stimulus spending

Stimuluswatch.org allows residents of Columbia, and other cities, to view, comment and rank lists of what local officials have determined to be “shovel-ready” projects in need of federal stimulus money.

Jerry Brito, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said he created the Web site so people would have the opportunity to evaluate stimulus requests and to provide additional information and context. In effect, the public would become a sort of watchdog over how the stimulus money is used and would be able to better inform the administration as to what its top priorities are. Ideally, it would also hold the government accountable for how it spends the stimulus money.

Officials say the 44 projects on Columbia’s list would require nearly $93 million and create 286 jobs. That equals approximately $325,175 per job.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said there was no expectation that all the money need for those projects would be granted to the city but that the information was provided to illustrate what could be done if the money was granted.

Hindman also stated that the Web site would have no bearing on how the money is used once if it is received because of the fact that anonymous voters from across the country are able to log on and vote on the projects. Instead, he will rely on the City Council to prioritize the projects.

Q: How useful is stimuluswatch.org? Should the mayor and City Council take the findings into consideration when determining how to spend the stimulus money?

House member thinks sexual orientation might have cost her committee seat

Rep. Jeanette Oxford, D-St. Louis City, was recently denied a position on the Special Standing Committee on Children and Families and she has suggested that her sexual orientation might have had something to do with it.

Oxford, who is a lesbian, had served on the committee for four years and said she had heard some members of the committee found her “offensive.” Oxford also claims that she has yet to receive a satisfactory answer on why House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, elected to deny her a position on the committee. The power to appoint representatives to committees rests solely with the House speaker.

Rep. Michael Corcoran, D-St. Louis County, was recently appointed to the committee because of his friendship with Richard and Corcoran’s experience, according to Richard spokeswoman Kristen Blanchard. But Oxford said it was only after another candidate stepped down from the position that Corcoran expressed interest in serving on the committee.

Making matters even more perplexing is the fact that Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota, D-Jackson County, recommended Oxford to Richard. LeVota said Richard accepted most of his committee recommendations.

"Rep. Oxford was a senior member of that committee last year and she has spent her life working on children's issues," he said. "She actually was a consultant to the Clinton administration."

Other committee members have stated that sexual orientation had nothing to do with Oxford’s rejection and that serving on a committee in a previous term does not guarantee a representative reappointment to that same committee.

Q: Do you think Rep. Oxford deserves a better explanation for why she was not allowed to serve on the committee?

Ballot brings on dueling lawsuits

A proposed constitutional amendment barring the use of public funds for abortion and human cloning has resulted in dueling lawsuits.

The source of the conflict is a proposed ballot measure sponsored by the Missouri Roundtable for Life. The group insists that Missouri's secretary of state, auditor and attorney general conspired to prepare an unfair ballot summary for the proposal.

A second lawsuit was filed in response by stem cell research supporters, contending that the proposal is improperly drafted and the summary shouldn’t be allowed to move forward.

Steve Clark, a lawyer for Missouri Roundtable for Life, contends that the secretary of state, attorney general and auditor are conspiring to keep abortion-rights opponents and anti-cloning groups from getting their proposed constitutional amendments before voters.

Under Missouri law, initiative petition sponsors can submit language that they would like to appear on the ballot but the secretary of state’s office is responsible for drafting the summary while the state auditor is responsible for preparing a cost estimate and the attorney general reviews the documents.

The second lawsuit claims the ballot measure would rob people of the potential benefits of stem cell research. 

The wording approved by the secretary of state’s office asks if the constitution should be amended to “make it illegal for the Legislature or state or local governments to expend, pay or grant public funds to hospitals or other institutions for certain research and services, as defined by the General Assembly in section 196.1127, Revised Statutes of Missouri, 2003, such as abortion services, including those necessary to save the life of the mother, and certain types of stem cell research currently allowed under Missouri law."

Q: Do you think either side has a case? What is unfair about the language of the ballot?


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