5 Ideas

Sunday, August 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:01 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008



to school

Leaders of Columbia Public Schools found themselves under the spotlight last week as a result of their recent decision to place the city’s newest high school three miles outside city limits and far from where many residents thought it should be. When Superintendent Phyllis Chase and school board President Karla DeSpain went to thank the City Council “in advance” for its support in meeting the infrastructure needs of the site, they got a cold reception.

Some council members criticized the school district’s decision and the process that was used. Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said he was “totally befuddled” about how district administrators could have spent two years planning for a third high school without discussing any infrastructure needs with the City Council beforehand.

Chase said the school district explored other sites before contracting to buy 40 acres southeast of Columbia; another 40 acres were donated by the landowner, Turner Vemer. District officials, however, are refusing to disclose what the other sites were. Meanwhile, DeSpain and Chase have said they’re open considering other sites if any become available.

How do you think this issue should be resolved?



A study showing that preschoolers perceive anything made by McDonald’s as better tasting proves that marketing is having too much of an impact on children, according to the author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy that urges limits on marketing to young people.

In the study, preschoolers were given identical carrots, milk and apple juice, some with McDonald’s packaging and other generically wrapped. The children consistently reported that the food bearing the McDonald’s brand tasted better. Only two of the 63 children tested said they had never eaten at a McDonald’s restaurant.

The study came a month after almost a dozen large-scale food companies announced plans to reduce advertising aimed at children younger than 12. But a University of Chicago professor said the goal of marketing is to establish familiarity with the consumer. He suggested a more accurate test of the effects of McDonald’s marketing on children would have been to test foods labeled McDonald’s against foods packaged with a similarly high-profile image, such as Mickey Mouse.

How are the children you know affected by mass marketing?



The debate on whether minority students should be offered extra academic and financial support has hit close to home. Facing a federal lawsuit by the national Center for Individual Rights, MU and program partner Dow Jones opened a summer journalism workshop to all students that was previously offered only to minorities.

The lawsuit is part of a nationwide effort by some groups to rid higher education of government-sponsored race- and gender-based requirements for programs and scholarships.

In 2005, the Center for Equal Opportunity filed a civil rights complaint against MU alleging illegal race discrimination in MU’s financial aid programs. The president of the center said the programs are neither fair nor legal, but MU officials say they are obeying the law. An MU spokeswoman said complaints like these are filed routinely with MU but rarely escalate because it reaches voluntary agreements to address the concerns.

Do you see any place for higher education programs that extend special offers or support to people of particular races or gender?




Last week the City Council voted 5-1 to hold a public hearing on whether to allow the sale of alcohol in eight Columbia parks. Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously opposed a draft policy that would allow such sales. Commissioners agreed that allowing the sale of beer, wine and champagne would damage the family-friendly atmosphere of the parks and expose children to the harmful aspects of public alcohol consumption. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, however, said it would be hypocritical to prohibit the sale of alcohol in parks while allowing its consumption.

Some business people see the sale of alcohol as a potential draw for corporate sponsors and a move that would bring greater attention to city-sponsored events. But Becky Markt of the Youth Community Coalition said allowing alcohol sales would reinforce the message that there’s no way to have fun without alcohol.

How would the sale of beer, wine and champaign at park events affect your decision to attend?




The Boone County Commission last week decided to focus for now on winning a renewal of its half-cent sales tax for roads and bridges. The tax extension will appear on the November ballot.

Once that vote has come and gone, the commission will revisit whether to ask for a higher roads tax. And, at the behest of county Treasurer Kay Murray, it will throw a possible increase in the county property tax into the conversation. Murray noted that the property-tax strategy would allow the county to issue bonds to pay for larger projects. A 40-cent property tax increase would generate about $10 million a year.

Murray suggested the commission explore its options rather than trying to sell two tax measures to the public at once, especially given that the county has only 2½ weeks to place issues on the ballot.

Would you be more likely to support a higher sales tax or a higher property tax for roads and bridges? Why?

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