GEORGE KENNEDY: An opinionated voter's guide for Tuesday

Thursday, October 28, 2010 | 4:00 p.m. CDT; updated 4:47 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 28, 2010

COLUMBIA — Today I’m offering, in response to no public demand whatsoever, a voters' guide to the amendments and propositions on Tuesday’s ballot. I intend to be both selective and opinionated. Proceed at your own risk.

This is the first election I can remember in which those propositions are more contentious and therefore more interesting than the contests between actual candidates. Of course, there aren’t that many candidate contests; and the ones we have are all easy calls. For me, at least, that’s not the case with all the ballot issues.

I’ll begin with the question that has caused me the most agonizing. That’s whether to ban the use of Tasers and similar devices in our fair city. I’m going to vote against the ban. I’m persuaded that the Taser is a valuable law enforcement tool and that our cops have learned to use it responsibly.

I didn’t come to that conclusion easily, partly because I know and respect the people pushing the ban and partly because there have been abuses in the Taser’s use, here and elsewhere. Had it not been for the guidelines drafted and enforced by Chief Ken Burton and Deputy Chief Tom Dresner, I might have gone the other way.

I’m impressed with the candor of both men, who seem to accept that, as Chief Burton told a League of Women Voters forum recently, “The use of force by police is never a pretty thing.” When force is required, it seems to me that the Taser is less likely to cause lasting harm than hand-to-hand combat or that old stand-by, the baton. Firearms remain, as they should, the last resort.

What worries me more than cops with Tasers is untrained and unrestrained civilians with them or similar devices. But that’s a subject for another initiative campaign.

The campaign that has generated the most heat and maybe the least light this year is the battle over puppy mills and how best to correct the proven and horrifying abuse of helpless dogs. After a lot of reading and listening, I’ve decided to vote for Proposition B in spite of its evident shortcomings.

The most serious of those shortcomings is that it doesn’t directly address the inability or willful failure – I’m not sure which – of state inspectors to enforce existing law. The proposition does, however, strengthen and clarify the law, a necessary if not sufficient step in the right direction.

Another reason I’m voting Yes is the proposition’s opponents. You can tell a lot about any issue by looking at who’s against it. In this case, the loudest opponents are a couple of organizations that seem paranoid or perhaps deliberately deceptive. The Farm Bureau and MFA, both wholly owned subsidiaries of corporate agriculture, claim that this proposition is the first wave of an assault on livestock farming.

They offer no real evidence for that claim. Even if they did, the factory farms that produce most of our beef, pork and chicken these days deserve more critical attention than they get.

Of the other ballot issues, I’ve previously expressed myself on the Rex Sinquefield Amendment, the earnings tax ban. Its campaign slogan, Let Voters Decide, is exactly backward. It would prevent local voters from deciding in the future how to tax ourselves while requiring St. Louis and Kansas City citizens to revisit a decision they’ve already made. We should tell Rex to stick to his charities and his chess.

We should also say No to the real estate industry’s pre-emptive strike against the transfer tax that most states already impose. Missouri’s state religion is low taxes, so we’re not likely to add this one. But we shouldn’t rule out the possibility.

One tax we do have in Columbia is one we should keep. That’s the 1/8 cent for our parks. If we value our city’s quality of life, we have to pay for it. This is a bargain.

I’m done now. Good luck Tuesday.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Anne Hogan October 28, 2010 | 5:04 p.m.

Thank you so much for your insight, Mr. Kennedy. Current laws haven't been effective at protecting the tens of thousands of dogs in Missouri's puppy mills, many who are suffering in terrible conditions. Proposition B would apply to both licensed and unlicensed puppy mills and give law enforcement the tools to enforce basic care standards for dogs.

To learn more about the conditions in Missouri puppy mills, you can view the HSUS's "Dirty Dozen" report at

(Report Comment)
Sarah Barnett October 28, 2010 | 5:12 p.m.

Thank you George for your insight on Prop B and your support! No doubt they will find the way over to here and post their paranoid fears. What they seem to ignore, is that Prop B only covers dogs bred to produce puppies sold commercially as pets—no other species of animal—and includes a specific exemption for hunting dogs.

It could not be more clear that this measure has no impact on sportsmen or agriculture. Fifteen states recently passed strong laws cracking down on abusive puppy mills, including major agricultural states, giving dogs basic humane standards of care such as food, water, veterinary care, exercise and shelter. And people still eat food, including meat, in those 15 states. The same arguement was made 12 years ago when a cockfighting ban was on the ballot, and the claims are as false today as they were back then. (in those 12 years, there has been no attempt to impact livestock agriculture or sport hunting in the state through the Legislature or through the initiative process.)

The sad truth of the matter is that it is very difficult to defend the cruelty that occurs in puppy mills in Missouri, and much easier to try to focus on unrelated issues.

I encourage everyone to visit, to see for themselves that this is extremely specific, and will provide Missouri law enforcement officials with new tools to crack down on puppy mill cruelty. I hope that others will join the Humane Society of Missouri and many Missouri vets in voting YES on Prop B this Tuesday.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 28, 2010 | 5:16 p.m.

("You can tell a lot about any issue by looking at who’s against it.")

("Our goal has always been and shall always be to protect the rights of animal owners and enthusiasts against the devastating effects of the animal rights movement."

The following organizations are proud members of
The Missourians for Animal Care coalition:

FCS Financial
MFA Incorporated
Missouri Agribusiness Association
Missouri Cattlemen's Association
Missouri Corn Growers Association
Missouri Dairy Association
Missouri Egg Producers
Missouri Equine Council
Missouri Farm Bureau
Missouri Federation of Animal Owners
Missouri Livestock Marketing Association
Missouri Pet Breeders Association
Missouri Pork Association
Missouri Soybean Association
The Poultry Federation
Professional Pet Association")
Vote No on Proposition B.

(Report Comment)
Sarah Barnett October 28, 2010 | 5:29 p.m.

("You can tell a lot about any issue by looking at who’s against it.")

Our goal is to confront animal cruelty, and improve the welfare of animals.

The following organizations are proud members of
The Missourians for the Protection of Dogs Coalition:

The Humane Society of Missouri
The Humane Society of the United States
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation
Best Friends Animal Society
Animal Rescue Foundation

Prop B is endorsed by many other organizations, vets, responsible breeders, and individuals which are listed here:

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 28, 2010 | 5:57 p.m.

All you H$U$ "paid lobbyists" out in full force across this great state of ours?
Nothing like using those videos of sad dogs to cover overtime...
("Sarah Barnett January 14, 2010 | 5:06 p.m.
Thanks Clyde, I hope you'll contact our puppy mill department at, as we would love to work with you and any other responsible breeders who are really in it for the animals. It's great to see and hear from those that understand the importance of being humane to their animals.")

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 28, 2010 | 6:01 p.m.

("Puppy Cruelty Has Nothing To Do With Prop B
Prop B: The Planned Puppy Euthanasia Bill. Maybe we should just call it the Puppy Murder bill and run around throwing puppy slobber and red paint on Prop B supporters.")

(Report Comment)
Shelley Powers October 28, 2010 | 6:03 p.m.

I agree with you on Proposition B, of course, but also agree with you on Proposition A. We can't keep starving our towns and cities--not unless we want to negotiate with our fire or police departments every time we call 911.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 28, 2010 | 6:13 p.m.

("...I will Vote No on Prop B is now Missouri Voter. You got that??? Now caring if they are Licensed or not. Well the answer is the people you want out is your Unlicensed breeders! They are you bad apples! They are the ones you see on the news! This bill will do nothing to stop them! You need to do a little research yourself. As for everything I do in my kenne, I do everything I said above and I am NOT a Pxxxx MXXX. Yes this bill would hurt me as I own thats right OWN 100 dogs!!!!! I love everyone of them and guess what they have names and they know them! So who is the cruel person that votes Yes what of my 50 dogs over the limit????? Give them to a rescue? I think not because what is rescue going to do with them???? UMMMM I believe they will SELL them for money! The real problem is the pet owners that do not get their pets spayed or neutered, hence they puppies and dogs you see in your selters. Very rarely do you find a pure breed in a shelter. Oh and yes I have done my research on this also and do have the facts on this as well. So sam take your H$U$ paycheck and go somewhere else because most of rural Missouri is voting NO on Prop B!
Local News: Hartville, MO

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 28, 2010 | 6:41 p.m.

("After a lot of reading and listening, I’ve decided to vote for Proposition B in spite of its evident shortcomings.")

It's never good to pass bad legislation.

(Report Comment)
Marina Shane October 28, 2010 | 7:20 p.m.

There is a reason why Missouri is known as the "puppy mill capitol" of the United States. It is because our laws are the WEAKEST in the nation! We have 3 times more licensed commercial dog breeders than any other state. With weak laws we attract the cess pool of the dog breeders.
As a Missourian, I'm sick of living in the "Puppy Mill Capital of the US". Missouri needs to add to & clear up our current legislation regarding dog breeding. Proposition B will help do that. It will add to the current ACFA (Animal Care Facilities Act) & make the current laws clearer & easier to enforce.
Why would every Humane organization in Missouri endorse & support Prop B? Because they are the ones who have to deal with the aftermath of sick, matted dogs that have lived their lives in filth. The Commercial Dog breeding industry has 1 year to comply & come up to standards with Prop B. Shelters & rescues are already preparing to accomodate the influx of dogs they will receive when Prop B passes. Looking to the future, the passage of Prop B will mean less rescues, less cruelty, less euthanazia from overbreeding & abandoned breeding dogs from puppy mills.
I honestly believe that anyone who understands the horrific impact PUPPY MILLS have in the state of Missouri can only come to one conclusion . Please join me in voting YES on Prop B this November.
Vote YES! Prop B
Prevent Puppy Mill Cruelty!

(Report Comment)
Michelle Cascio October 28, 2010 | 8:00 p.m.

Ray, my Stella was a homeless purebred lab- abandoned by an owner who bought her impulsively from a pet store who lived in a place where he could not have pets. You are correct, in that irresponsible pet ownership greatly contributes to homeless pets and pet overpopulation. It is estimated that 25% of pets in shelters are purebreds. Where do they originate?

If you do care about your dogs and you need to meet new guidelines, I seriously hope you will consider adoption as an option for them. They could have a forever home.

(Report Comment)

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