GUEST COMMENTARY: 'The good, the bad and the ugly' of Columbia

Thursday, August 16, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:41 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 16, 2012

COLUMBIA — When you live in Columbia, you live with "the good, the bad and the ugly." I know, that's a tired old cliche — and a movie title. After all, we learned in Reporting 101 to avoid cliches. However, for a lot of us in this town, what is happening "bad and ugly" to Columbia has "gotten old," and we are just tired of it. We yearn for the real Columbia to emerge.

The real Columbia? Well, you know, the one we picked when we moved here, several years back and bought a home and settled in here. The Columbia we chose in the toss-up with Baylor, University of Texas, University of New York, Harvard and UCLA. The Columbia nestled in the farmlands of the Midwest Heartland of America. The Columbia that was named as one of the "Best Places to Live" by Money Magazine.

We get glimpses of the real Columbia. Places where the hungry are fed. Places that provide overnight shelter for the homeless. The Columbia of private citizens who put on red shirts (to symbolize bloodshed) and stood between the funeral procession of a private citizen killed in Afghanistan and insulting interlopers who shout hatred and harass to crash-kill any common courtesy and respect shown to others, to tread on civil liberties of those who gave up their lives to serve this country.

There is something in all of us that wants that "good" we sought in calling this town our "home," and we yearn for it to be a daily reality as we move and live about this place.

So, why do we have the "bad and the ugly?" Why do we tolerate it and what can we do about it, as private citizens?

Well, we have the Lewis and Clark Trail dissecting our town. St. Louis has the Gateway Arch, but we have the point of the trail right through our town. All we have is a small green, unnoticeable highway sign on Providence. We should have a huge billboard there, as well as one at the entrance of I-70 into this town and at the exit, going out.

And, we should get rid of the tacky, spray-painted sheet metal attached to visible rusty bolts and concrete blocks in front of our public library. Across the street from the library is a school and a historical cemetery. In front of the library, we should have a larger replica of the small sculpture of humanity depicted inside the library.

Also, we should get rid of the keyhole "thing" in front of the Daniel Boone City Building. Put up a statue of Daniel Boone, pointing westward. We have local sculptors who can be counted on to complete this work.

Then, we have the oldest university west of the Mississippi. Why are we not announcing that to the world — in huge signs, websites and everywhere we can get the message out that we were "first and we are d--- proud of it!"?

Now, we get to "the ugly" in this town. We do not feel safe any more. Can that be laid at the feet of people we have trusted in key positions in our city? Do our mayor and City Council need to be overturned?

For example, the city has been told many times that private citizens request that sidewalks be properly sealed and repaired. Yet, some of us have been forced to give up workdays, suffered immense pain and racked up medical bills because a jagged, unsealed sidewalk tripped us while we were walking. Does the city need a major lawsuit, or several of them, to simply do what we have paid them to do right in the first place?

Another example: I was recently in the fire chief's office. The administrative assistant waved at me as I walked in the door and stood at the counter; therefore, she knew I was there. She turned her back to me and made a personal call to discuss someone's honeymoon. I waited more than 15 minutes. It was 100 degrees outside, and then I had to leave and go back to work. She was still on the phone with her personal call.

If these public servants cannot do their work, then there should be no such thing as tenure or someone who has been so long on a job that they no longer serve the public because of their own selfish ego and impulses of the moment. We need to "let them go" and get someone in there who can, and will, do the job for us.

Then, maybe we can feel safe again.

Let us consider this lack of response and lack of caring about public safety in crime-related incidents in this town. We all know that the chief of police has requested 42 additional officers and community substations. We still have nothing of the sort, do we? There should be a complete investigation of the Columbia Police Department from rank on down. They don't do their job right, and if someone gets hurts in any way, then those who hurt innocent citizens are gone, too. Let us replace them with those who can and will keep us safe from harm. The chief of police, no doubt, will be cleared and shown valuable to this town, and the facts will show that we need the 42 additional officers and community substations.

So, there we have it, "the good, the bad and the ugly." Well, then, "Let's just stick to the facts, Ma'am" and "get 'er done."

Speak up, Columbia. This is our town.

Delcia Crockett lives in Columbia and is a teacher, a writer, a composer and an active volunteer in the community and church. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Michael Williams August 16, 2012 | 8:43 a.m.

Columbia has no "theme" and no "draw".

Except sports.

If you lived somewhere else, what "thing" would cause you to vacation here? Wish we had a lake.

And much of our public art is horrid.

But, so is the Business Loop.

Finally, district owners? Your first floors look great, but your second floors could use some cleanin' and fixin' up.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks August 16, 2012 | 9:00 a.m.

Hard to complain about a place when a place is made up by the people that live there and the people in officer were voted it. You can not keep voting in the same people and expect different results.
The problem with govt or public service jobs is that they are usually held by those that are not successful enough to run their own business and thus just settle for what they got. Same as the people that run for office. It was a calling to help out for a while then go back to doing what you wanted to do. It was not supposed to be a career. The mayors and city counsel feel they own the place.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 16, 2012 | 10:59 a.m.

I was under the impression that the significance of the "sheet metal" outside the Library had already been explained once and for all: It is a monument to Iowa State University's "CyClone," their incredibly ugly bird, and is painted in their school colors. When MU [now] used to play Iowa State, Cyclone fans visiting Columbia marvelled at why MU would want to erect a monument to ISU. I wonder too.

Yes, University of Missouri is the oldest public university west of the Mississippi; MS&T is the oldest public technical institute west of the Mississippi and the oldest public institution anywhere in the United States to offer degree programs in Mining Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering, but it's not located here in Columbia. Rolla, Missouri also has its share of the good, bad and ugly. :)

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble August 16, 2012 | 12:49 p.m.

@Corey, I wanted to comment to disagree with your ignorant and, frankly, asinine comment: "The problem with govt or public service jobs is that they are usually held by those that are not successful enough to run their own business and thus just settle for what they got."

I have several family members who are or have been in government jobs at the state and federal level, and I can tell you that they are has hard-working, dedicated, and possessed of high standards as anyone I've known, in fact more so than most private-sector job holders I've known. Without a relentless profit motive, public service can be an opportunity for people who deeply care about what they're working on to devote their lives to it.

Your comment is baseless and insulting. Better to stick to citing your own personal experience - if you actually have any - than to resort to nonsensical extrapolation. Excellence and mediocrity exist in all areas of human endeavor.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks August 16, 2012 | 9:54 p.m.

I am sorry it hit a sore spot with you but sometimes the truth hurts. Every day the news is filled with dozens of examples of public workers gone wild or are completely out of line with the way they conduct business. This is true at the state level all the way to DC to include the armed forces.
I could site a few but the author of this article seemed to beat me to the punch.
I am sure your family members are hard working and do it for the love of the job and not the money and benefits but with the govt being the largest employer in the world it is safe to say they are in the minority.
In the private sector if someone provides a poor business model and has horrible service they public quickly takes note and moves on to a better company but in govt the population is pretty much stuck with what they got. ie. City Hall, DMV, SS Office, VA.
So yes I stand by what I said and will not respond to your short sightedness.
As far as a personal experience I can say I have been in business 12 years and have loved every minute of it and it is a challenge to do what I do and keep so many people happy but if I slack off even for a moment the next client is gone. I have also been in the military 10 year this month and have been a commander for the last 3. For every outstanding UA or ARG there are 11 that should be canned for complacency and just flat out horrible work ethics. Fortunately the last 2 have been outstanding while my first was an embarrassment to the uniform and job. Could she be fired? Not a change in hell. All you could do was sit and wait for her to get her automatic promotion and PCS to another state.

(Report Comment)
hank ottinger August 17, 2012 | 3:57 a.m.

Mr. Parks writes, "Every day the news is filled with dozens of examples of public workers gone wild or are completely out of line with the way they conduct business."

I read three papers a day, and I can attest that they are not "filled with dozens of examples" as you claim.

You also say the "government" is the "largest employer in the world." Not. Wal-Mart, for starters.

And on a personal; note, all of my dealings with folks in Social Security, Medicare, and city agencies to boot have been relatively stellar compared to many in the private sector which frequently hires people on the cheap who have little experience, training, or "people skills." Think cable and phone companies.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett August 17, 2012 | 6:58 a.m.

@"I could site a few but the author of this article seemed to beat me to the punch."

Thank you. I have never been fired in my life, but that may be because I know (have always known) that if I do not do my job as hired in to do, then I could be fired and replaced.

If it is good enough for us who pay the taxes to support these people, then it should most certainly apply that they do the job, and do it well, that we hire them to do.

You are right, there is something that makes people feel they just do not have to do the job well, and that they are still entitled to a paycheck.

That is considered time theft, and a person can be fired for time theft, and maybe even charged with a crime for it, if the employer is tracking them, and they are not aware the employer is monitoring. From reports out, more and more employers are watching via tech and know who the ones who are who use paid time as personal time on the computer, phone, etc.

It's about honesty, so why do we who hire these people, allow them to get away with this?

It's our buck in the stake, after all. And, our safety at risk, maybe even our life, in some cases - when it comes to the police.

We need the arrogant, the mean and the incompetent out of there. And, the ones who have been there for years and then think they are entitled to hurt innocent people by not getting all the facts before railroading someone into a lifetime nightmare through that officer's behavior toward an innocent private citizen.

We need the sub-stations, and the extra officers so that we can have somewhere to turn to tell what is happening to us where we live. Not someone who comes from across town, storms our house like the Gestapo but still allows us to be threatened and stalked by someone in the process.

Do we need a new Council and new personnel in the office at the Fire Chief's and replacing some of the officers in the police department?

If they cannot do their job, and if they allow low morale to overtake their job responsibilites, then they need to work elsewhere. If they cannot leave personal business to personal time, then they need to leave for good.

The rest of us would not have our jobs, if we grew as imcompetent and self-serving as some of these people who lack the work ethic and lack the accepting the responsibility for doing a job well, to their best ability possible.

Have they ever heard, "A job worth doing is worth doing well"? One has to wonder.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks August 17, 2012 | 7:43 a.m.

@Hank: Check your searches again. The US govt employs more people world wide then anyone else around to include Wal Mart. I admit I meant to say in the US but typed in World out of habit but after a few clicks of the computer turns out I was right on both counts. I will also note that those "employed" by the US govt do not even include the 48% of Americans on some sort of govt assistance or the farmers that get subsidies every year to not farm. If I really looked around I bet those numbers do not even include the GM union workers who in a round about way are being propped up by a bad investment loan by the govt.
As far as the 3 papers you read each day out of the roughly 1500 printed I do not know what to tell you. I guess you could keep looking as it would be hard to find a dozen articles with that headline in 3 papers.

(Report Comment)
frank christian August 17, 2012 | 7:55 a.m.

Hank - A stopper? Our U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has more offices, nationwide, than Wal-Mart has storefronts.

(Report Comment)
Charles leverett August 17, 2012 | 2:01 p.m.

I've met some public workers that did a horrible job, I've met public workers who has done a great job. I've met private sector employees who do a great job, and I've met private sector employees who do a horrible job. In short your assertion that all public employees are lazy losers who can't find a real job is wrong. Any assertion that all public employees are great and hard working is wrong, but the same can be said for private employees.

And Corey, do me a favor, before you try to paint everyone with a broad brush, why don't you head down to the VA Hospital and visit my wife (please not a patient) as she works as a Nurse on the step down unit. Then try and tell my all public employees are lazy.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller August 17, 2012 | 4:09 p.m.

Mr Parks,

My hat is certainly off to you---someone with the speed reading skills and time organization ability to peruse 1500 newspapers per day is to be admired.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor August 17, 2012 | 4:31 p.m.

Now that's private sector work ethic right there ;-)

A serious variable being left out in the public/private sector discussion is of course the bottom line. One of the posts so comically overlooks it, scared would be the correct word to describe my reaction.

"Without a relentless profit motive, public service can be an opportunity for people who deeply care about what they're working on to devote their lives to it."

This is true. The problem is that someone is going to have to pay for my dedicated research in to which grains make the best beer. Who's ready to pay me?



(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 17, 2012 | 6:34 p.m.

@ J. Karl:

Surely they teach speed reading at MU. If not, I think we could supply MU with instructors on a temporary basis.

So there won't be any confusion as far as MU campus security personnel are concerned, I'll describe our team of two instructors.

They will arrive driving a 1937 REO pick up truck, rust-colored (due to rust). He will be wearing bib overalls; she will be wearing a flour sack dress and a big hat, a la Minnie Pearl. Since shoes are optional in our part of the state at this time of year I don't know whether they'll be barefoot or not, but that will in no way impair their performance.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett August 18, 2012 | 6:51 a.m.

All I gotta say is, when we in the private sector have to "tow the mark" and be work hounds to the clock in all honesty, then is it asking too much that our public servants do the same? Is it really too much to ask, to ask them to be honest, as they expect us to be, in working to pay their salaries, when they are not paying ours for a minute?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield August 22, 2012 | 10:51 a.m.

When Rose Nolen retires, Bunny clearly is ready to take her spot. Yawn.

(Report Comment)

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