Five ideas for the weekend of Oct. 13-14

Saturday, October 13, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:51 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Creek or ditch?

The environmental footprint left behind by the planned Gans Road construction will cost the city $202,545 in mitigation costs.

The cost is part of an agreement between the city, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will allow the city to fill in about 1,500 feet of a Gans Creek tributary. Filling in the tributary will reroute the creek, making way for the interchange’s northbound on-ramp, according to a city report.

City officials have called the tributary a ditch, in what appears to be an attempt to devalue the waterway, but the Corps of Engineers disagrees.

The city accepts that it will have to pay and has made efforts to ensure that its money is spent on the creek in question, as opposed to creeks elsewhere in the state. For now, the money is earmarked for the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation’s Stream Stewardship Trust Fund, a pool of money to help finance restoration, preservation and enhancement of streams statewide.

Is it fair of the city to request that more than $200,000 be used for what some have called a ditch at the possible expense of more desperate creek situations in the state?

Cable bill comes due

The city of Columbia filed a lawsuit against cable provider Mediacom in an effort to recover $1.34 million in unpaid cable franchise fees and support for the city’s public access channel.

The city is seeking $93,105 in underpaid franchise fees dating from 2001 to 2004 and $1.5 million in support for Columbia Access Television dating from 2001 to 2007.

As of September, cable providers are required by the city to pay 5 percent of their gross revenue in franchise fees in return for use of the public right of way. The rate was previously set at 3 percent.

Support for CAT was simply underpaid, according to the city. It estimates that Mediacom has only paid CAT $163,220 since 2004.

In a list of affirmative defenses filed by the court, Mediacom lawyer Ronald Hack stated that the city misinterpreted the franchise agreement and should not be allowed to ask for more money after accepting earlier support. Further, the city’s attempt to extract the money retroactively prevents the company from passing costs on to consumers.

How much support should the city expect from cable providers in return for assuring them a piece of the Columbia cable-television market?

Honor system

A commercial overlay district is the center of debate between members of the North Central Neighborhood Association and commercial developers. Essentially an extra layer of zoning rules, the overlay would further control development and, supporters say, improve aesthetics.

The overlay district was created by residents, who organized in 1993 in response to encroaching development. They support the district as a way to exert more control over new developments, redevelopments, building alterations and other projects in their neighborhood. Developers would have to get approval from a city-appointed review board before beginning construction.

Developers argue that the mandatory review board would draw out redevelopment and approval of home improvements. Don Stamper, executive director of the Central Missouri Development Council, recommended that the review board be voluntary and that incentives be offered for complying with the process.

A developer suggested that developers be allowed to comply with zoning laws on a volunteer basis.

Do you trust developers to regulate themselves?

Campaign refunds: the remix

The Missouri Ethics Commission has decided to try it again from the top.

Less than a month ago, Republicans sued the commission for allegedly violating the Missouri Sunshine Law in an effort to prevent the return of $7 million in campaign contributions collected in excess of recently imposed limits. The commission was charged with enforcing a Supreme Court decision that campaign finance limits would be reinstated and applied retroactively.

According to the Associated Press, the commission voted at a Sept. 19 meeting to re-visit the decision-making process regarding contribution refunds. On Oct. 4, commission members heard public testimony from lawyers representing Republicans and Democrats. The commission agreed not to make a decision about refunds until November so that it can review campaign finance reports that are due Monday.

How does the Missouri Ethics Commission’s capitulation to demands for more open government reflect the effectiveness of Sunshine Law enforcement in the state?

New school

The construction of a yet-to-be-named elementary school could lead to the redistricting of five other elementary schools — Blue Ridge, Lee, Field, Shepard Boulevard and Cedar Ridge.

The Elementary Enrollment Planning Committee’s objective is to make each school’s population reflect the public school community. The committee will make a recommendation to the school board in May 2008.

When the school opens in the 2009-10 school year, children currently in the third grade and below will populate it. There are options for children who want to finish out the year at their old schools with their old friends.

Third- and fourth-graders in 2009 will be allowed to stay at their old school, but they will only be provided public transportation to the school for one year. Students in fifth grade when the new school opens can opt to stay where they are.

Students left in their original districts may be able to elect to go to the new school instead.

How effective is current districting at promoting racial and socioeconomic diversity in Columbia’s elementary schools?

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