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FIVE IDEAS: Columbia finds new superintendent, police chief this week

Friday, February 20, 2009 | 1:46 p.m. CST; updated 11:52 a.m. CST, Monday, February 23, 2009

*Missouri was ranked No. 17 in the Feb. 9 AP poll.

Chris Belcher Named New Columbia Public Schools Superintendent

It was confirmed Friday that the Columbia School Board hired Chris Belcher to be the new superintendent. Belcher was the superintendent of the Kearney R-1 Public School District, northeast of Kansas City. He is replacing former Superintendent Phyllis Chase, who retired in August. Jim Ritter has been acting as interim superintendent since then.

“I’m happy for Chris; I’m sad for Kearney," said Randy Wepler, principal of Kearney junior and senior high schools. "He has done a tremendous job here."

Belcher was hired over former co-superintendent Skip Deming, whom the school board had let interview after the original deadline for applicants. Belcher had a reputation in Kearney of making difficult emotional decisions that were better for the district.

“From where we started to where we are now, the progress is unbelievable, phenomenal,” said Brian Thomas, president of the Kearney School Board.

Columbia School Board members said they were looking to find a candidate that fit the characteristics the public asked for. In a survey sent out in December, respondents looked for someone able to cope with the district's current deficit. Steve Calloway, vice president of the school board, told the Missourian earlier in the week they were hoping for a unanimous decision. Although that did not happen, he said the dissent was more in support of Deming, not criticism of Belcher.

What do you think of the hiring of Chris Belcher as the superintendent of Columbia Public Schools over Skip Deming? Will Belcher be able to transfer his success at Kearney, a much smaller school district, to the roughly 17,000 students in Columbia?

First stimulus bill project starts in Missouri

On Tuesday, President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package that had passed through Congress the week before. The bill was a mixture of tax cuts and infrastructure spending hoped to jump-start the economy out of a recession. The White House projects the stimulus bill will save or create 3.5 million jobs, including 69,000 in Missouri.

Minutes after the president signed the bill in Denver, crews in Missouri started working on the first project funded by the stimulus package. The project is to replace the Route 17 bridge in Tuscambia. The bridge was built in 1933 and spans a Missouri River tributary.

The stimulus bill passed despite support from only three Republicans: Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Missouri Sen. Kit Bond put out a release after the bill was signed claiming that the bill would increase the debt, but would do little to stimulate the economy.

“Taxpayers will be on the hook for spending that will stimulate the debt, stimulate the growth of government, but will do little to stimulate jobs or the economy,” Bond said in the release.

However, when Sen. Bond visited Hannibal on Tuesday, he showed off his sponsored amendment to the bill which provided $2 billion to jump-start low-income housing projects stalled by the worsened economy.

Do you think the stimulus bill will help Missouri as much as projected? How do you think Missouri's representatives performed in getting the projected $4.3 billion for local projects?

Missouri gun shops see spike in sales since Obama elected

A Missourian article that ran Feb. 15 documented an increase in demand for firearms since President Barack Obama was elected in November. In comparison to the previous year’s numbers, background checks for firearms have increased by 24 percent in December 2008 and 29 percent in January.

Bob Cron, a clerk at Target Masters in Columbia, believed the increase to be because of the fear that a new Democrat-controlled Congress would lead to further gun control regulations. Cron cited the H.R. 45: Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009 to show the legitimacy of the buying frenzy. The law would force gun owners to have a license to purchase the firearms.

An unfortunate side effect of the depleted supply is that prices are rising on both ammunition and firearms.

"Gun prices have gone through the roof. It's ridiculous," Rasmussen said. "I just think they (gun merchants) want to use that fear that most gun buyers have that some Democrat's going to take away their guns to jack up gun prices. But nobody's going to take away guns."

Is the increased demand to buy firearms in case of heightened gun control too overblown or is it substantiated?

The Missouri men’s basketball team is in the top 10

The Missouri men's basketball team was ranked in the top 10 by the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches poll and No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll. The ranking comes on the heels of the team’s wins over Kansas and Nebraska.

This is the team's highest ranking at this point in the season since the 1993-94 season. The rise of the Tigers' position was made possible by losses from 16 ranked teams since the Feb. 9 AP* Poll was released.

The team (22-4, 9-2 in the Big 12) won’t let the ranking affect its play, senior forward Leo Lyons said.

"Of course, when you’ve got a number by your name on ESPN, a lot of teams want to come out and try to get an upset for the fans and everything like that," Lyons said. "But we try to ignore it and play like it ain’t there."

The success comes in coach Mike Anderson’s third season at Missouri. The Tigers finished with records of 18-12 in his first season and 16-16 last year.

Is Missouri basketball as good as its ranking? How far do you expect Missouri to go in the NCAA tournament?

Columbia hires new police chief

Kenneth Burton, police chief of Haltom City, Texas, was selected Thursday to be Columbia’s next police chief. Burton has seven years of police chief experience, starting in Bryan City, Texas, in 2001 before moving to Haltom City in 2003. City Manager Bill Watkins said that experience set him apart.

"Either of the two candidates would make a great chief,” Watkins said. “But his experience as police chief makes a difference, I think. It’s a difference between being a major, which is the third level down, and being the No. 1 person."

Burton’s specialty has been in community policing, which he describes as high levels of communication with the community. Burton also focuses on geographic policing, a statistics-based strategy which focuses on high-crime areas.

Burton will be replacing former Chief Randy Boehm. Boehm was police chief in Columbia for 32 years before retiring in July. Boehm’s salary at retirement was $100,000 per year. Burton’s salary will be set at $135,000 annually when he takes over the first week of April.

Q: What are your expectations for the new police chief, Kenneth Burton? Will the increase in salary paid raise the standards of success?


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Comments

Luke Thompson February 22, 2009 | 10:58 a.m.

Missouri basketball was ranked #19 in the Feb. 9 USA Today/ESPN poll (#17 in the AP).

(Report Comment)
Olepop February 22, 2009 | 11:51 a.m.

There's disagreement in the country about CEO salaries right now. The argument starts with the notion that, "If we don't pay the high salaries we won't be able to attract and keep the best people for the job." How does that apply here? If chief Boehm was doing the job for $100,000, and our new chief signs on at $135,000, isn't that a little lopsided. And doesn't that seem to be a blow against our outgoing chief? Last Q: Where in the negotiations does it come up that the new guy needs 35% more than the outgoing fella? What was he making at his old job?

(Report Comment)
Olepop February 22, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

I agree with him, but who is Rasmussen in the Gun Sales story? He's a smart man, so I want to know if he's a Democrat or a Republican.

(Report Comment)

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