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Five ideas

In this section, we present a few of the major issues that have come up in the public discourse in the past week. We end each subject with a question to encourage you to consider your own opinions about these issues and how they affect our community. Please take a moment and contribute to the dialogue.
Sunday, April 1, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:32 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

[1] GROWING DEBATE

How to manage Columbia’s rapid growth is one of the primary issues in the campaigns for three seats on the City Council that will be filled Tuesday. While the candidates agree on some concepts — the desire for more mixed-use developments and the need to be more proactive, for example — each offers his own ideas.

Mayor Darwin Hindman, seeking a fifth term, thinks voluntary, planned annexations are one of the best means to ensure the city controls how new development occurs. His opponent, John Clark, begs to differ, saying aggressive annexations overextend infrastructure and place a high burden on existing residents.

Third Ward candidate Gary Kepohl says the city needs to do a better job of gauging how growth affects public schools. His opponent, Karl Skala, wants to steer development toward areas that already have sufficient infrastructure.

In the Fourth Ward, candidate Jerry Wade thinks that zoning laws need to be revamped and that the City Council needs much clearer guidelines for deciding how development should happen. His opponent, Mike Holden, says the key is to avoid polarizing debates by bringing stakeholders in certain areas to the table before development happens.

What are your ideas for how the city can get a handle on growth?

[2] IRAN RISING

Iran has raised international tensions to a higher level with its capture of 15 British sailors, claiming the sailors entered Iranian waters. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose government insists the sailors were in Iraqi waters, has said if diplomatic strategies don’t soon result in the sailors’ release, he’ll have no choice but to take a different approach.

The European Union has urged Iran to release the sailors, but Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said it will not do so until his government completes an investigation into their activities. Iran says the sailors are being treated ethically.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is flexing its muscles in the Persian Gulf, performing its largest exercise there since 2003. Two aircraft carriers and more than 100 planes and 10,000 personnel have been deployed to the region and are conducting maneuvers.

The trouble began last fall when Ahmadinejad declared that Iran would begin a program to produce nuclear fuel, an effort the international community fears will inevitably lead to the production of nuclear weapons.

What are the next steps the U.S. government should take to deal with the spiraling situation in Iran?

[3] CANCER AND POLITICS

Americans have long complained about political campaigns in the United States, whether for their ruthless negativity, their deceptive strategies or the simple length of the campaign season, which in presidential politics begins well more than a year ahead of the elections.

A new issue, however, has arisen: Health.

Early last week Elizabeth Edwards, who is married to Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, announced her cancer has relapsed. In 2004, just before the presidential election in which her husband was the vice-presidential running mate for John Kerry, Elizabeth Edwards learned she had breast cancer. Now the cancer has spread to her bones.

Both Elizabeth Edwards and her husband said they will forge ahead with his present campaign, an announcement that has garnered divided reactions from the public. Some believe the move shows incredible courage; others believe they should stop; still others believe it’s a ploy to play on people’s emotions and, thus, win votes.

Elizabeth Edwards’ announcement came just before White House spokesman Tony Snow disclosed that his colon cancer has returned and spread to his liver. He had surgery last week to combat the cancer and will undergo further treatment.

How should politicians and those close to them conduct their work when dealing with serious health problems?

[4] DEADLINE FOR VICTORY

Both the House and Senate last week passed separate bills that set definitive timetables and deadlines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. President George W. Bush has vowed he will veto either bill if it arrives on his desk and predicts the veto will stand.

The House bill, which narrowly passed on a 218-212 vote, sets the pullout date as Sept. 1, 2008. It also appropriates $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and imposes a series of benchmarks to determine progress in Iraq. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill a step in the right direction, saying it creates a schedule for redeploying troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan, “where the war on terrorism is.”

The Senate also narrowly passed a timetable bill, with a vote of 50-48, adding more punch to the congressional message to Bush. The Senate bill would set the pullout date as March 31, 2008.

The sharp divide between Congress and Bush creates fear that the troop morale in Iraq will suffer as American fighters sense that support for their effort is eroding.

What do you see as the pros and cons of setting a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq?

[5] NORTH VS. SOUTH

There’s a marked split among residents of northern and southern Boone County over the proposed 21-cent increase in the Boone County Library District’s property tax.

The tax increase, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home nearly $40 a year, is intended to pay for a new southern branch library in the city of Ashland and a new northern branch library near the Boone County Fairgrounds, just north of the Columbia city limits.

Predictably, folks in southern Boone County have expressed support for the measure. Those in northern Boone County towns, however, have a problem with it. Hallsville Mayor Carl South has said the northern branch isn’t nearly close enough to his community. He also complains that the estimated price tag of $10.5 million for the northern branch and more than $5 million for the southern branch is just too expensive.

The Boone County Library District includes all areas of Columbia that were not within the city’s 1965 boundaries. So if voters to the north oppose the tax, while those to the south support it, Columbians might be casting the deciding votes on Tuesday.

Do you believe the proposal on Tuesday’s ballot is fair and equitable? Why or why not?


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