GEORGE KENNEDY: If you're not up on the issues, please don't bother to vote

Thursday, March 31, 2011 | 3:19 p.m. CDT; updated 6:38 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 7, 2011

COLUMBIA — As you may have noticed, we have another election coming up Tuesday. The only prediction I’ll venture is that most of us won’t bother to vote. That’s OK with me. After years of bemoaning low turnout and urging participation, I’ve come to think that anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn about the issues and candidates does the democracy a favor by staying home.

Missourian readers, of course, are a civic-minded bunch. For you, here’s my slightly off-center take on a quiet campaign that offers several difficult choices.

Let’s begin in the Fifth Ward, where Helen Anthony and Glen Ehrhardt have generated more heat and spent more money than the other races combined. Both, as far as I can tell, are smart, sincere and well qualified. Both are attorneys.

If you read the profiles and even the Q-and-A in Wednesday’s paper, you might have trouble distinguishing their positions. That’s why it’s important to look at who’s supporting them. The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Tuesday that Ms. Anthony’s campaign donations have come mainly from retirees and medical people. Mr. Ehrhardt is backed by the big developers and the Chamber of Commerce. His campaign treasurer filled the same role last year for Mayor Bob McDavid. Mr. Ehrhardt himself was deeply involved in the mean-spirited campaign that knocked Karl Skala off the council in that same election.

There’s nothing improper or unethical in any of that. If you supported Laura Nauser, the outgoing Fifth Ward councilperson, you’ll probably want to back Mr. Ehrhardt. However, if — like me — you think the developers and the Chamber are already sufficiently represented on our City Council, Ms. Anthony is your candidate.

She has been a strong and thoughtful voice for controlled growth in her service on the Planning and Zoning Commission. She promises to carry that approach to the council.

The choice is less clear in the First Ward. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. If I lived in that ward, I could happily support either Fred Schmidt or Pam Forbes. Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different. He’s a CPA with degrees from elite institutions. She’s a toolmaker who raised a daughter on her own. But both evince understanding of the ward’s deep-seated problems and commitment to addressing them.

For different reasons, I don’t take Darrell Foster or Mitch Richards quite as seriously. Mr. Foster, an ex-con turned community activist, speaks usefully but narrowly for the African-American minority. Mr. Richards, a newcomer to town, has a libertarian-leaning, small-government philosophy that seems likely to get in the way of much-needed limits to development and enforcement of codes.

The School Board race presents even more difficult decisions. Six candidates seek three seats. Only Sara Dickson couldn’t get my vote. She describes herself as the Christian conservative candidate and says she seeks to represent nonparents. I want our schools governed by people with a personal stake in their success. And I don’t want anyone in a decision-making position who thinks creationism belongs in a science curriculum.

That leaves five. In the League of Women Voters forum I attended, Dave Raithel didn’t seem to take himself all that seriously as a candidate. I’ll follow his lead.

That leaves four. Both incumbents, Jonathan Sessions and Tom Rose, have served us well. I’m not sure, though, that Helen Wade and Liz Peterson wouldn’t serve us even better. The two outsiders have been, I think, the most impressive campaigners. I wish I could vote for all four.

We do get to vote, again, on the recurring issue of whether to pay our council members. The campaign in favor is being led by two establishmentarian advocates and backed by a cross-section of community grandees. They argue that it’s unfair to expect even the most civic-minded to pay the unavoidable costs of service from their own pockets. They suggest that the absence of a modest stipend discourages some from running.

The voters have heard and rejected those arguments several times before. The quality of council candidates is impressive. The theme of the silent opposition probably is that if it ain’t broke — and if the city nearly is — why fix it? Well, perhaps it’s time we did.

That leaves on the ballot two noncontroversial items. One is the friendly competition for Jerry Murrell’s seat on the Boone Hospital trustees. Challenger Jan Beckett would do a good job. So has Dr. Murrell.

I doubt anybody without an engineering degree truly understands Proposition 2, but even nonengineers can grasp the benefit of paying $1 million a year less for power generation.

See you at the polls, or maybe not.

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

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Nelson Richter March 31, 2011 | 8:11 p.m.

I don't care who you vote for but the important thing is to vote. The people with agendas will always vote, especially the "no" votes and those "single issue" voters when 24% of voters make decisions we wind up in our current situation. Tea Party folks who would turn us back to the "years gone by" do not understand that our economy carries world wide implications. Please become an informed voter then make choices that will return common sense and decency to our government. We need to return to the days of John Danforth.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 31, 2011 | 11:41 p.m.

Incoming angry post from Mitch Richards supporters. Complete with links to articles and endorsements.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 1, 2011 | 12:11 a.m.

Nah Tim, I'm content with George lumping himself in with "Hack" Waters - old, irrelevant white guys who won't be wasting newsprint much longer. Hopefully voters in all races won't be making their votes based on either of their pieces.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 1, 2011 | 6:13 a.m.

John, John! Have you no respect for geriatric white guys (like me)? I'm certain your mother raised you better than that.

I read George's polemic and was pleased to note that it wasn't nearly as bad as the CAPTION of the piece would suggest.

I thought I might be having to read a thinly veiled argument by George for imposing an "intellectual poll tax." Such a tax would drastically reduce voter turnout, as there are few intellectuals in Columbia. :)

(Report Comment)
Dave Raithel April 1, 2011 | 9:37 a.m.

Lord help me. If I'm not being accused of being "confrontational" by one newspaper editorial, then I'm being accused of not taking myself seriously by the "competition" across town.

What is it, exactly, about you people with money, power, and status, that I do not "get?"

Here's the word: Rather than take Mr. Kennedy seriously, go visit my blog, the Dave Raithel For School Board Blog, and fairly ask: Is Kennedy being serious?

(Report Comment)
Dave Raithel April 1, 2011 | 9:55 a.m.

Oh, I forgot to say: Mr. Kennedy, I accept your apology I know you know you owe me....

Am I entertaining now?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 1, 2011 | 10:51 a.m.

Now Ellis, you know I would never lump you in with folks like George and "Hack" Waters. As an engineer, you've presumably built and/or specatularly destroyed something, both of which are excellent accomplishments.

(Report Comment)
George Kennedy April 1, 2011 | 11:41 a.m.

Mr. Raithel, I won't be apologizing for taking you at your word that you're running because you're unemployed and in need of something to do. I will agree that you've been the most entertaining candidate so far. Of course, that's just the view from the elderly and irrelevant.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett April 1, 2011 | 12:30 p.m.

I will be voting Tuesday, and my vote is with Sara. Science classes have been addressing religion in lectures and schools - buying textbooks with pictures of Christ in them, for decades. Even lab workbooks have the religious pictures and whole pages discussing religion, but saying that science is enlightening and private faith is nil. If you are going to address religion, you might as well present its perspective. Had science simply stuck to its theories and not addressed religion, I would be most inclined to agree that religion should not be discussed in a science class. But professors will become irate and insist they are enlightening the masses, if they address religion. I agree that religion is a private matter, but no one should infringe upon that privacy by addressing that in public classroom and teaching that science proves God is a myth and does not exist. Science cannot disprove the existence of God - so if science is not supposed to mention religion of any sort, then science should not have addressed religion, at all - and just stuck to its theories. Science is one of the most interesting subjects in the universe, to be taught or studied - but when it is taught as a science - and does not brink upon preaching a personal agenda of belief in the origin of the species theories, concerning God - including the belief that there is no God. Address religion, then expect religion to want you to stop putting in a slant on it that is not accurate - in any sense of the word - because science continually disproves itself and yet those who address religion in the classroom know science cannot disprove God either. It takes someone with real fortitude and clear, calm thinking to speak up against this notion that science should be taught in this old-hand way that religion can be mentioned, but with a double standard held in place - science addresses religion while saying religion should not be addressed.

Voting, and encouraging others to do the same.

: )

(Report Comment)
Paul Love April 1, 2011 | 1:54 p.m.

Personally I like Mitch Richards, disparaging comments by the author and a few posters aside. It¹s more of a difference in philosophy, I'm glad he offers a choice and it is a clear one.

He's well spoken and vigorous in his defense of civil liberties. He is concerned about how public funds are spent. Ask yourself the following questions. Do you like more government, yes or no? Do you want more regulations, yes or no? Are you willing to pay more to support the first two? It’s a question of you get what you pay for and did you want to pay for it. I will say that his ideas wouldn't have resulted in a 14.5T dollar national deficit, but then again if you like what you received in exchange for that type of governance feel free to vote for that style of government.

That’s the way the game works. Everyone decides what they like, they vote accordingly and we have a new representative. If more people wish to be represented by the Young Lion of Liberty than those who wish for the status quo then he becomes the new 1st Ward Council person. If more people want to maintain the status quo then it will be someone else. Get out do your civic duty and vote. :)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 1, 2011 | 2:27 p.m.

@ John Schultz:

Your comment is interesting to somebody who has seen both civilian and military aspects of engineering. Military engineering affords situations where it's possible to build something of importance and then have to subsequently destroy that same something, depending upon changed situations.

On the other hand, in non-military circumstances an engineer might spend an entire career productively yet never actually build or destroy anything.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice April 1, 2011 | 2:39 p.m.


Could you please cite your sources or provide us with examples of actual Missouri K12 districts or public higher ed institutions that are using science textbooks 'with pictures of Christ in them'? I would like citations for both the district/institution and the these science textbooks themselves.

Other than that, Delcia, I think your post does absolute, 100 percent justice to your candidate.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 1, 2011 | 4:30 p.m.

I too would like specific examples of science textbooks containing pictures of Christ, Scripture, etc. that are being used by public education institutions, as opposed to any textbooks used for church sponsored education.

I attended an informal lunch today at which the names Tracy Greever-Rice and Delcia Crockett came up in conversation. It was contended that Delcia is someone previously well known by another name.

I don't convince easily, so I accessed Delcia's profile on the Missourian and read all available prior posts.

The contention made at lunch is probably correct.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett April 1, 2011 | 11:24 p.m.

Would you please reread my post? Thank you.

I stated that lab books had pictures of Christ then pages of discussing religion - but it was from the standpoint of science addressing religion as a proved myth, when science itself states it cannot disprove religion.

I have one such lab work book that I had to have for a class at a public university. This page was in the very front of the book, in full color. In another science class, the religions of the world were put on the board on the first day of class, and the professor spent the lecture hour bashing the faith of every student in the room - from Jews to Hindus - listing them on the board, then grew tense and defensive when a young student politely raise his hand, at end of lecture, and questioned this.

You will not have to look far to find science classes that address religion - when, in fact, science should be sticking with its own defining factors of what science is - constructing theories on hypothesis (scientific guesses).

I never said anything about Scriptures. Proponents of classroom bias-teaching against religion are not speaking for the whole of the scientific community, and they are not abiding by their own concept of separation of church and state.

When science addresses religion, at all, it is breaking its own definition of what science really is.

Children catch onto this fairly early in life - and many science classes have been ruined by addressing religion when science could have been a fascinating subject - taught as a science, and not as a basher of private faith.

People are entitled to their private beliefs and they should be respected. Science should not even go there. But some classroom teachers have.

Time to just teach science and leave religion alone, or address religion and give the creation concept, as well. Science should stick to its theories, and mean what it says and say what it means. Not give opinions on things it cannot disprove - and state the opinion as fact.

Anyone interested in how science addressed religion can do some research on what textbooks contain, and what teachers are expected to say, about religion - and then the researcher could be surprised to learn - perhaps - that it is not Scriptures that are in the reference when science addresses religion.

I was surprised that anyone would read my post and jump to that conclusion.

Please consider that this is not about putting Scriptures in textbooks or lab books - but this is about some public school science classes bashing private faith when science says it should not address religion, but that religion should be separate from science.

It is not separate, as long as science keeps addressing it from the viewpoint that only some of the scientists hold about religion - and teaching that viewpoint as the concrete definition of the origin of man.

Thank you for asking. Glad to clarify post.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett April 1, 2011 | 11:48 p.m.

Mr. Smith:

You could have saved yourself a lot of trouble, and read my comments on the other online town paper. Delcia Crockett and the posting name "bunny" you are referring to, are both on every post there.

I also post on several safe forums, and use my name on all of them. There is no other name for me, but Delcia Crockett, though my identity has been stolen and used on the Net, on occasion.

I think this would have worked better in a private message to me, but since you addressed it here, then I responded.

Enjoy your luncheons. As you know I have never attended any of them, and have never met you.

I enjoy poetry round table, and discussing ideas, concepts and not other people.

-Delcia Crockett

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley April 1, 2011 | 11:53 p.m.

We should clarify just a little, Ellis..

There was nothing negative said about Tracy at all. We were just hoping that she would respond to my invitation to join our informal little lunch group, and we arrived at the conclusion that she might make a nice fit for "membership in our little group"...

We would like to extend the invitation again, so she too may enjoy the same opportunity as we do in talking bad about people behind their backs. A favorite passtime of mine... LMAO!

Delcia; Happy Easter to you. I hope the Easter BUNNY brings you lots of nice things this year.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett April 1, 2011 | 11:55 p.m.

Like some other voters, I research all the candidates, well ahead of time - and read all the available published comments made by them. I mark the form that the county clerk sends out to registered voters with my choice, based on what I have read and studied about each one, and Sara has my vote. I think she can speak for people who pay school taxes and vote in this community, and a child in school does not necessarily mean an informed voter, or representative of the voters. I would hope for more than a light turnout on education issues, though. Education is one of the most important things we will ever do in this country, or this state, or this county or this city.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett April 2, 2011 | 12:00 a.m.

Thank you, Rick.

: )

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 2, 2011 | 5:10 a.m.

Fascinating! :)

(Report Comment)
Zach H April 5, 2011 | 1:02 a.m.

My thinking is a little bit different from the author's.

-For school board, Sessions is an easy choice. A great candidate. But I think Wade and Raithel would be good voices on the board. Both are intelligent and have an interest in education, something I care about deeply.

-Prop 1, I think it would make lower income candidates more viable to be council members which would be a beneficial factor for the community, so Yes.

-And Prop 2 has me confused. The issue is, we can buy the plant for a couple million to save $1 million a year, but the schools would lose $1 million in taxes? It sounds like a roundabout way to cut school funding to me, so No.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 5, 2011 | 8:11 a.m.

Proposition 2 represents an important opportunity to increase our electrical power security, and is unbelievably cheap compared to any other way of doing it. $350/kw is less than half the price of what it would cost to build a comparable facility. Any hit the schools would take would be worth it in the long run. 1 million could be made up by a trivial adjustment to property taxes or a trivial surcharge on our power bills. Let's not pass up this opportunity to become more self-sufficient in electricity.


(Report Comment)

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