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THE WEEK IN COMMENTS: Democracy, wasteful spending and sustainability

Sunday, September 4, 2011 | 5:09 p.m. CDT; updated 6:07 p.m. CDT, Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jefferson City, the Pentagon, the Boone County Sheriff's Department and the Columbia Office of Sustainability drew the ire of Missourian readers in this week’s roundup of the best comments posted on ColumbiaMissourian.com.

J. KARL MILLER: Like the 'Puppy Mill' legislation, voter initiatives may not serve the public well.

Comments: 16 / Commenters: 12

A J. Karl Miller op-ed railing against a “Your Vote Counts” petition that would require both houses in the Missouri legislature to have a three-quarters majority vote before overturning any voter-initiative legislation and Fred Seaman’s response sparked a contentious debate on the website about voters' rights, the duties of a representative government and federalism itself.

“It would really suck if we got to vote on everything we wanted,” commenter Paul Allaire said. “Maybe we should just quit voting. Or we could assign our voting to pools and they would have all the smart people decide who to vote for for us.”

Shelley Powers slammed the state legislature’s aloofness, citing “arrogance beyond belief in this last session.”

“Too often they allowed special interests to influence their decisions, all the while patting voters on the heads and telling us we're too stupid to know what we want. … When you treat voters like children, we don't learn how to be responsible citizens.”

Matt Arnall asked why citizens shouldn't have a strong voice in their government.

“Why shouldn't it be at 75 percent to overturn the public majority? It is clear that government is run on bribes, back-door deals and individuals that only have their best interests in mind while making decisions for the rest of us. So why shouldn't it be difficult for the saints in government to go against the people that they represent?”

Michael Williams warned that “Your Vote Counts” is just another special interest package trying to change the rules in Jefferson City.

“Fact is: If this initiative passes, sometime real soon it will come back to bite the current advocates in the rear end. Hard. And I'll be there to remind them of their past advocacy and apparent inability to see further down the road than their own current interests.”

Panel finds widespread waste in wartime spending 

Comments: 15 / Commenters: 12

An investigative panel in Washington, D.C., said the U.S. wasted between $31 billion and $60 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. Predictably, readers were not happy.

Gary Straub expressed his frustration with the structure of the military-industrial complex and its political backers.

“The war in Iraq and now Afghanistan has been nothing less than a feeding trough for corporate pigs, with the CEO of Haliburton laying down the path by awarding many no bid contracts to his "former" company. ... The blackhearted right wing that complains about one penny being spent to help a down and out citizen has been looking on like the three monkeys as the public coffers have been pillaged with impunity.”

“Money is power. Those with it make the rules,” commenter Greg Allen said. “Military industrialists have been reaping it healthily for the last ten years, and they have the power to override even the elected desires of The People to get out of the wars. Do you think they'd give it up without a fight?”

Guns, drugs seized from smoke shop owner’s home 

Comments: 15 / Commenters: 8

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department seized firearms, cash and illegal drugs from Kevin Bay, owner of smoke shop BoCoMo Bay, on Tuesday. Readers questioned the procedure and legality of the raid.

“Funny how they searched his home a day after he had to take all of the K2 out of his shop. I'd imagine a decent lawyer can get him off, get his money and guns returned,  etc.,” commenter Melissa Turner said. “As for the delivery of the substance ... it wasn't illegal until Sunday, so how exactly can they charge him if the law wasn't yet in effect?”

Jack Hamm speculated on rumors that the police didn’t confiscate any drugs during the raid.

“Only time will tell what is actually going down here but between the shady prosecutor in Stoddard, the multiple requests for witness immunity and the confusion over what was actually taken from the home things seem fishy at best. This looks like another case of the law enforcement seeing an easy mark for a quick pay day. Either way I imagine this will end up the way these things usually do; the police will get their pay day and the citizens will be out a fortune trying a case that is pointless and fighting the inevitable lawsuit.”

Columbia’s sustainability office seeks grant to help low-income areas 

Comments: 14 / Commenters: 8

Columbia’s Office of Sustainability announced plans to apply for a $500,000 federal grant to fund a survey of housing in low-income areas and their use of energy, transportation and natural resources. Some of the Missourian’s readers cried foul for wasteful spending.

Thomas Nagel defended the city’s application for federal funds.

“It's common city practice to apply for all available federal and state grants for just about any project, crucial or otherwise. For sustainability projects, basic information on possible options, implementation, and especially long term feasibility becomes especially necessary.”

Frank Christian wrote in response to Nagel.

“Right Tom, we are reminded of the liberal mantra: Always oppose fiscal irresponsibility in every instance! However, if the money is there ... ”

McCaskill: Call center should disclose location

Comments: 36 / Commenters: 10

Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced a plan of legislation that would require companies to disclose the location of their call centers to customers. According to McCaskill, the new legislation would encourage companies to keep their call centers within the U.S. and spur jobs. Some Missourian readers disagreed.

Mark Foecking considered the new legislation useless.

"This is a complete waste of time. Can't our legislators come up with more important things to legislate on? "

According to commenter John Schultz, the location of a call center will not affect his decisions.

"I'm not going to stop patronizing a company just because they disclosed to me that their call center is in Pune, Manila or Bangalore. It's not the government's right to shame them into bringing Murrican jobs back home. The company owns the jobs and can staff them where they wish. "

Ray Shapiro wrote:

" … I believe McCaskill's approach to call centers has more racial/hatred of foreigners and hatred of big business overtones then anything else. "

City receives extra $5.9 million for bicycle and pedestrian improvements

Comments: 30  / Commenters: 12

The city of Columbia received $5.9 million more federal funds to spend on bicycle and pedestrian improvements after an original grant for $22 million was received in 2006. Readers questioned GetAbout Columbia's use of the original money and if the new money will be used effectively. Likewise, they talked about the need for education of the public in regard to cyclists.

Commenter Jack Hamm thought the money had been wasted originally by GetAbout Columbia.

"GetAbout has completely squandered these funds and giving them more will not improve anything. I recently visited Minneapolis and was amazed with what they have accomplished with their funds. It really added a new perspective on how wonderful of an opportunity for Columbia was wasted by GetAbout."

Derrick Fogle added he wished that education about cyclists was a bigger part of what the funds were used for and that it wasn't completely GetAbout Columbia's fault.

"To play devil's advocate, this isn't all GetAbout's fault. Many much more effective infrastructure projects got held up or scuttled because landowners were convinced a recreational trail in their neighborhood would bring a hoard of criminals to their doorstep. Even fitness facilities were more concerned about the value of their land, than what a running trail at their doorstep might bring. GetAbout wasn't the only one making really poor decisions."


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