Five ideas: What do you think about these events that came up in the news this week?

Saturday, September 29, 2007 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:15 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Beautification or confiscation?

The city of Columbia is considering receivership to deal with blighted property in cases where the owners are unwilling to make their own repairs.

The process would allow the city to take ownership of run-down, vacant or abandoned property to make repairs. Once the property is up to code, the owner could reimburse the city for the repairs and reclaim their property.

“The idea is that if you have an owner who will not keep their property up,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said, “the property is put in the hands of someone who is charged with bringing the property up to standards.”

Bill Cantin, of the city’s Neighborhood Response Team, said that about 20 percent of the 1,800 houses in the central-city area bordered by College Avenue, Ash Street, Ridgeway Avenue and Business Loop 70 do not meet city codes.

Run-down housing can cause health concerns and lower the property values of surrounding homes, Hindman said.

Is this a good approach to a city problem, or does it violate private property rights?

Truck lanes

The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected a section of Interstate 70 between Kansas City and the Ohio-West Virginia border as one of six “Corridors of the Future,” which means it will fund a study on the feasibility of adding four lanes for trucks only.

The goal of the program is to “reduce congestion and improve freight movement,” said Jeff Briggs, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation. He said the state does not have the estimated $3.5 billion needed to add the lanes. Missouri will receive $2 million to expand an existing I-70 Environmental Impact Study to include the possibility of adding the lanes and to pay for consultants.

The study will also include financing options, including the possibility of imposing tolls on the truck-only lanes.

The Missouri Motor Carriers Association supports the idea of an I-70 freight corridor, but it is opposed to a toll road, said Tom Crawford, president and CEO of the group.

Is adding four truck-only lanes to I-70 a good idea, and, if so, who should pay for it?

Missouri raises math scores

Missouri’s fourth- and eighth-grade students made improvements in the math section of this year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress. Missouri students are now equal to the national average.

Jim Morris, of the Missouri Department of Education, said Missouri’s success on the math test comes from increased preparation of students for the exam.

“The biggest challenge is the fact that we — teachers, parents, the community — are a product of our math system. And what we know about the way children learn math is that it’s different than the way we learned math,” said Linda Coutts, Columbia Public Schools’ math coordinator for kindergarten through fifth-grade education. “And any time you’re trying to change a paradigm, it’s difficult.”

The improvements come on the heels of a debate about how to better teach mathematics to Missouri’s children – whether math should be taught through a traditional, step-by-step process, or as a method that includes more than one way to solve problems.

Does this math score reflect the success of alternative math methods or are school systems just teaching the skills required to do well on a standardized test?

Abortion compromise

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction this week that prevents the state from enforcing new regulations on abortion clinics until a compromise can be reached with abortion providers.

A law that was set to take effect in late August would have classified some abortion clinics as outpatient surgery centers, making them subject to state oversight and regulation. Abortion providers have claimed that the new regulations would cost them expensive renovations and effectively put some clinics out of business.

The injunction had both sides claiming victory. State attorneys were pleased because the judge said abortion providers would have a tough time proving their claim that the law imposes an unconstitutional obstacle to getting an abortion.

Attorneys for abortion providers were pleased because the judge said that if the state enforced the law in the most stringent way possible, the renovations could prove so expensive that they could infringe on the right to an abortion.

Is a compromise the right way to proceed, or should the law be stringently enforced, regardless of the impact on abortion providers and Missourians?

No more “Frat pit”

MU police closed off access to the “frat pit,” at the corner of Providence Road and Champions Drive, during last Saturday’s football game.

MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said MU police have received reports of inappropriate conduct at the popular tailgating spot. During the game two weeks ago, five of the 12 people who were arrested on suspicion of being a minor in possession were arrested at the frat pit. Police have also seen inappropriate behavior that could be attributed to a lack of portable toilets, Weimer said.

The decision to end tailgating there has caused a ruckus among MU’s Greek community.

Eric Sterchi, of Delta Upsilon, called the area “a group of guys getting together before the game to support the school and cheer on the team.” He said underage drinking will occur regardless of whether or not tailgating is allowed at the site.

Officers and other personnel were stationed in the area to prevent tailgaters from gathering before last Saturday’s game.

Does closing frat pit cut down on inappropriate and illegal conduct or just send underage drinkers elsewhere?

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