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DEAR READER: There's a whole lot of grit in this cinder-free city

Friday, December 24, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 3:17 p.m. CST, Monday, December 27, 2010

Dear Reader,

Most stories begin with a question.

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Mine on Tuesday: Why is my concrete driveway so black if the city said this would be the first cinder-free season?

Reporter Alexandra Browning found answers, which creates more questions, which, I hope, will create more journalism.

Browning’s article Wednesday confirmed some of my suspicions:

  • Some of that black stuff on the driveway came from my daughter’s car. She drives Providence Road on the way to Hickman High School. That’s a state-maintained road, and the state still likes cinders. Check.
  • The rest of the grit came because salt wasn’t working on the snow that fell earlier this month, so the Public Works Department put down a combo of salt and cinder. Safety first, right? Check and check.
  • When the conditions require, that salt-n-pepper mix will be used everywhere except downtown and the Village of Cherry Hill. Huh?

Browning showed me a map provided by the city with those designated salt-only zones.

The standard argument for cinders has been about expense. Salt costs more. So do weird and interesting things such as beet juice. Are we as a community willing to pay more to avoid dirty looking streets, cars, shoes and driveways? The answer, starting this snow season, is yes.

Browning’s piece, though, raises another question: To what extent should safety override our distaste for black grit?

The question might produce another article or an update to the existing one. It might lie like the proverbial seed cast on stone.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll let the driveway cinders alone, buried safely under the next layer of snow.

Before I sign off, I wanted to give an update. Last week I told you about a public records request for liquor law violations at MU. Twelve people donated to Spot.Us to get the records and help reporter Michelle Markelz figure out why violations had doubled in a year.

On Wednesday I spoke with Marsha Moore, who works for the UM System’s custodian of records, Kathy Miller. Programmers have been able to redact most of the private information and have cleaned up some other data fields. (Moore is hand-checking the rest.) It should make getting the information a lot easier in the future.

Eventually, Markelz will get the data. Then the hard work begins in figuring out what it all means. And I’ll get the bill, which you’ve already helped pay.

Tom

P.S.: Print readers: Traditionally, the Missourian does not publish the day after Christmas. It is, as one news editor put it, the only day of the year that the staff knows it will have off.

This year, though, you'll see our regular Sunday/Monday edition.

So you'll see the full newspaper. If you're looking for breaking stories from Saturday, however, go to ColumbiaMissourian.com. I let the editors produce the paper on Friday.


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Comments

Gerald Shelnutt December 25, 2010 | 6:52 a.m.

FWIW my truck looks better with black cinders on it than it does with a telephone pole on it. Some of our citizens sometimes get their knickers in a knot over little things, this is one of those things.

(Report Comment)
steve kightlinger December 27, 2010 | 12:15 p.m.

We use the beet juice in Illinois. It works well on the roads and because it is low sodium it is recommended for cars with high tire pressure.

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