5 ideas

Sunday, July 15, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:14 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

[1] What are the pros and cons of Deaton’s plan?

Compete Missouri

In an effort to make MU faculty salaries competitive with those of its peer universities, Chancellor Brady Deaton has initiated “Compete Missouri,” a three-year financial plan. It calls for an administrative review of all open faculty positions. Deaton said about 20 to 30 of those positions will not be filled. Each year, the university typically tries to fill 60 to 70 faculty positions.

According to the Association of American Universities, MU ranks 33 in faculty salaries at 34 public universities.

The dean of the College of Arts and Science likened the hiring of new faculty members to an “arms race.” He said that universities have to offer good teachers higher and higher salaries. Deaton said faculty shouldn’t “necessarily” expect higher teaching loads under his plan, because some classes could be taught across several departments. According to the American Association of University Professors, MU’s hold on hiring mirrors a nationwide trend.

[2] What do you think of Chase’s argument that the district’s interest would increase real estate speculation?

New Schools

The Columbia Public School District has identified potential sites for a high school and a new elementary school. Officially, the district’s use of one parcel, in northeast Columbia, has yet to be determined, but an assistant superintendent said that the site, near Waco and Brown School roads, would be appropriate for an elementary school.

A new high school is part of the district’s long-range plan. The district has acquired 80 acres in southeast Columbia, a location that has no infrastructure and, some believe, is a poor choice. The decision was made with no public input.

School officials say they are wary of giving the public too much of a voice in the decision-making process. They fear the district’s interest in a piece of land could result in price gouging by landowners. Phyllis Chase, superintendent of the district, said prices could double, triple and even quadruple as the result of such speculation.

[3] How would you vote on a law banning smoking? Why?

Smoke Signals

Some local business owners, mostly restaurateurs, are gathering signatures for a petition to reverse the smoking ban in Columbia. They said the ban is forcing some of their would-be customers to bars outside of the city that allow smoking. Joe Thiel, the owner of Otto’s Corner Bar and Grill, said he doesn’t think the city will repeal the ban, so he wants voters to get a chance to voice their opinions in November. The group still needs roughly 450 signatures to reach the 2,580 mark required to have the issue put on the ballot.

Third Ward City Councilman Karl Skala said he would continue to support the ban. He said it was matter of public health and not private property, and he thinks a ballot initiative to overturn the ban would fail.

The ban took effect in January. Since then, several establishments, including Columbia Billiards and the Tiger Club, have closed. The owners have blamed the ban.

[4] What do you think of MU’s future as a top biosciences research institution?

BYE Bye-o-lab

Last week officials from the Department of Homeland Security informed MU and the city of Columbia that it was no longer in the running for a national biodefense lab. Jim Coleman, MU’s vice chancellor for research, said the federal government was looking for greater “cost sharing” with its partner, and the other states, including Kansas, were offering figures in tens of millions of dollars to support the new lab.

Opponents of the lab, including residents of neighborhoods near the proposed site off New Haven Road, were relieved Columbia did not make the short list of finalists. They feared the potential danger of the deadly pathogens that will be studied at the facility.

Coleman said the opposition probably didn’t sink the deal for Columbia, but he noted the stronger political support offered by the other potential locations.

Last month, a biotech research firm pulled the plug on a proposed stem cell research facility in Kansas City, citing the hostile political environment in the state.

[5] What do you think accounts for the drop in New York City’s crime rate?

Real Rudy

An economist says the reason New York City saw such a large drop in crime under former mayor and current presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani was reduced lead poisoning, not just better policing.

The theory offered by Rick Nevin links lead poisoning to violent crime in the United States and other countries. Lead levels in New York fell drastically during the early 1970s, when federal law banned its use in gasoline and other products. Nevin said that, in 1990, 31 out of 100,000 New Yorkers were murdered; in 2004 the rate had dropped to 7 out of 100,000. Nevin also shows how crime rates jumped about 20 percent after two major lead poisoning incidents in U.S. history — during the early 1900s, when it was in most house paints and after World War II, when its use in gasoline increased.

Medical evidence suggesting that lead is a neurotoxin that causes impulsivity and aggressiveness has surfaced in recent years.

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