STAFF PICKS: A petition to rescind the blight decree, saying goodbye to a ragtime legend

Friday, April 13, 2012 | 5:07 p.m. CDT

There's a lot of content on, and we can't expect the average reader to consume every last morsel of it. Still, we fear some of the stories from this week that you need to know about might have been overlooked. So we've compiled a list of recent stories we think you could benefit from reading, including a petition by the Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia to overturn the Columbia blight decree and the life story of Columbia ragtime legend Robert Ault, who died Saturday at the age of 63.

City Council

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony proposed overturning the Columbia blight decree at a recent City Council meeting. After the lack of concern by other council members, political action committee Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia is now petitioning to force the council to rescind the blight decree and dissolve the advisory board for enhanced enterprise zones.


The $268 million deficit in education spending has brought the current funding formula under scrutiny. As it currently stands under this formula, some schools will see sharp increases, while others will see drastic cuts. Legislators are concerned as to whether there are inherent inequalities about how the state's education funding is allocated. Although the session ends May 18, the legislators have until July 1 to come up with a solution before making cuts.

The Columbia School Board voted unanimously to allow Ridgeway Elementary School to begin operating as a small, autonomous school with yearly evaluations conducted by the board. The board also unanimously voted to approve salary recommendations, including salary schedules, for district employees. They also swore in two recently-elected members at their Monday night meeting.

Emergency management

The Citizens Police Review Board voted unanimously to endorse the Columbia Police Department's policy requiring any officer to wear his or her police uniform while working security jobs during off-duty hours for private businesses. The vote was in the response to an appeal by two members of an anti-abortion campaign group who were given a warning for handing out literature too close to the Planned Parenthood entrance. The attorney for the two group members claimed a Columbia Police officer's uniform represents the city, and the city's support to protect Planned Parenthood takes a side in a controversial issue.

Battalion Chief Steven Sapp with the Columbia Fire Department will retire after 32 years of service with the city. Sapp was the pioneer public information officer in Columbia; a position created after a tornado hit the Southridge neighborhood in 1998. Although his last day as an employee with the city is June 29, he plans to volunteer and continue to help the community after retirement.

Intracity employee communication

Tuesday marked the beginning of the city's use of Google cloud technology for city employee communication. The complete transition to the Google applications will be June 15 when the city's current communications contract with Nell GroupWise ends. About 1,200 city employees have begun using the new technology.

Kemper Fellowship 2012 awards

Five MU professors were awarded the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence over the past two weeks. The award is presented along with a $10,000 check to spend as they wish. The fellowship was established in honor of Kemper, who graduated from MU in 1926 and was a civic leader in Kansas City. The award honors those who dedicate their lives to teaching.

Associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology Stephen Ball, who was presented with the award April 4, was the first recipient of the year.

Paul Crabb, professor and director of choral activities for the MU School of Music; Carol Deakyne, associate professor in the chemistry department of the College of Arts and Science; and Ines Segert, associate director of the MU Honors College, were the next three recipients of the Kemper Fellowship on Monday.

Assistant professor of English and film studies Joanna Hearne was the fifth recipient of the 2012 Kemper Fellowship award. She was presented with the award Tuesday.

Family history

After 72 years in storage, the 1940 census was released April 2, allowing a local family historian, Tom Stevens, 79, to fill in his family's history after 1930. Stevens spends about 25 hours a week trying to trace his family's genealogy so he can pass it on to future generations. The new data is free to the public and is accessible online, but it has yet to be indexed so that users can search by name.

Life story

Columbia ragtime legend Robert Ault, 63, died Saturday. He was a self-taught musician with a love for ragtime. He frequently performed at a saloon in the Blackwater community, as well as the Columbia's Blind Boone Ragtime Festival and other Missouri and national music festivals.

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