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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 8, 2007 | 2:49 p.m. CDT; updated 2:44 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[1] FLIGHT WOES

Mesa Air Group, the company that operates at Columbia Regional Airport under the name U.S. Airways Express, is debating whether to replace its flights to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport with flights to Kansas City International Airport.

A spokesman for Mesa Air Group said the company is seeking to switch its flight patterns to Kansas City because the airport is an operations hub. Others say the Kansas City airport is growing fast, and Columbia would benefit from having four additional connections to the city.

But the change would violate Mesa’s two-year contract, meaning the Columbia City Council must approve the proposal, which comes at a time when both the airport and Mesa are in a slump. The Web site for Conducive Technology Corp., which provides statistics on the flight industry, said some 20 percent of the flights between Columbia and St. Louis have been delayed in recent months, while some 28 percent of flights between Columbia and Kansas City have been delayed.

How would the cancellation of flights from Columbia to St. Louis affect you?

[2] PHONE RECORDS

Missouri is one of five states asking the federal government to reveal whether phone companies gave customer information to the National Security Agency. In similar cases in Vermont, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maine, the Justice Department sued to prevent releasing that data. The lawsuits are scheduled to be heard June 14.

The Missouri Public Service Commission has questioned who or what department is in charge of overseeing the phone companies to determine whether they are breaking state law by turning private information over to the government. The commission argues that police must convince a judge to issue a search warrant before such information is released.

But the Justice Department sees it differently. It has told phone companies not to say whether they released private information to the federal government because it could compromise intelligence-gathering activities and enable terrorists to change their ways of communications to avoid detection.

Should phone companies turn over private customer information to the federal government without a warrant?

[3] BROADWAY EXPANSION

The City Council agreed Monday to hire a consulting firm to conduct a traffic study of West Broadway between Garth Avenue and Fairview Road. The $67,800 study by Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier Traffic and Transportation will review access control, traffic rates, peak traffic hours and traffic-calming devices along the stretch for 120 days. It will likely report its findings in June.

Talk of widening the two-lane street to four lanes has caused tensions between the city and residents for decades. The city is growing, and public officials want increased access to downtown, where Broadway is already four lanes wide.

Residents and homeowners, however, say they don’t want the road to be expanded because it would destroy their quaint historic corridor. Last year, residents offered to compromise, calling for buried power lines, new gutters and curbs and a low retaining wall around bicycle pedways. Such additions, residents say, would help preserve the street’s character.

What is the best way to address traffic concerns while preserving the character of neighborhoods?

[4] GREENHOUSE GASES

The Supreme Court ruled last week that the federal government has the power to regulate greenhouse gases. In response, President Bush said he is pleased with his administration’s efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions. But many states are welcoming the ruling, including more than a dozen states that already have laws setting emissions standards.

Bush said it doesn’t matter what the U.S. does if China doesn’t also work to control greenhouse gases. Opponents of the ruling also said it was unclear if carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming, which they said could be part of the Earth’s natural heating and cooling cycle.

Environmental leaders applauded the court’s ruling, saying it could encourage other states to approve bills to reduce greenhouse gases. Congressmen have filed at least 300 pieces of legislations in 40 states that address greenhouse gases and climate change. Several states are considering rewarding companies that make cutting emissions a priority.

What, if anything, are you doing to reduce your impact on the environment?

[5] COLUMBIA GANGS

Gangs are active in Columbia, the founder of a gang prevention program said at a community meeting Wednesday, and the signs — graffiti, drive-by shootings and drug sales — are everywhere. Dennis Haymon, the founder of Healthy Options for Personal Excellence, or H.O.P.E., said gangs in metropolitan areas often use smaller cities such as Columbia for recruiting.

But Columbia Police say just because shots are fired on occasion and drugs are being sold in some neighborhoods doesn’t mean gangs are present; some urban young people are imitating the look and lifestyle they see on television and in hip-hop videos. If gangs do exist in Columbia, chances are they are loosely organized.

Haymon said gangs often appeal to young men and women, some of whom lack a sense of family in their own homes. A youth center volunteer coordinator said he’s heard local youths use phrases typically associated with gangs, and that residents and officials must do more to curb gang-related activities.

How concerned should residents be about gangs in Columbia?


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