Voters evaluate river, health care, education issues

Tuesday, October 12, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:52 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 25, 2008

As the Nov. 2 general election nears, voters who live in Boone County’s 24th House District are evaluating the issues they want the state government to address.

While many of their concerns mirror the top issues advanced by candidates Travis Ballenger and Ed Robb, the voters also have some extra challenges for prospective legislators to consider.

Voters who talked with the Missourian at the Pumpkin Festival in Hartsburg over the weekend expressed interest in health care, education, roads and Missouri River water levels as the most pressing issues for state government.

David Troth, who farms near Claysville at the southern tip of Boone County, said he’d like to see more water in the river. River flows are the subject of a fierce and long-running debate not only between upstream and downstream states in the Missouri River basin but also among state agencies and constituencies who have different goals for the river. The Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, has the final say on river management but has found itself the target of several court cases.

Upstream states, including Montana and South Dakota, want to restrict releases of Missouri River water to preserve the levels in their reservoirs and protect recreational interests. Downstream states, including Missouri, want more regular releases to ensure barges have enough water to navigate the river.

Troth said he expects river levels to drop by three or four feet in Missouri within the next few days, after upstream releases were halted last week.

That’s a problem “at harvest time, when we need barges to take grain down to the gulf port,” he said.

While Troth conceded Missouri River management is primarily a federal issue, he believes state government should become more involved because low flows are hurting the economy.

“Maybe when the municipals start needing more drinking water … then we’ll see a change,” he said.

Kenny Davidson of Columbia said his two main concerns are ensuring good health care for everyone and providing adequate funding for education.

“There’s more money going to prisons than to schools,” Davidson said. “To keep people out of jail, we need to educate them first.”

Ralph Dumas of Columbia said he wants state government to do something to improve Missouri’s highways, which he said are among the nation’s worst.

“I-70 is just really embarrassing and dangerous,” he said. “I see plans all the time, but nothing ever seems to happen.”

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