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Five Ideas: What do you think about these events in the news this week?

Saturday, November 10, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

IMPROVEMENT OR COSTLY WASTE

The City Council has tabled a plan to rebuild a portion of Hunt Avenue for six weeks following requests from property owners for a less invasive project.

The project, which would cost $561,000, would widen the road between West Worley Street and I-70 Drive Southwest from 20 feet to 28 feet, add parking on both sides of the street and include sidewalk and drainage improvements on the west side of the street. Only yards on that side of the street would be reduced to make room for the improvements.

First Ward Councilwoman Almeta Crayton met with avenue residents twice recently about concerns over trees in the area. Residents have also said parking on both sides of the street and a sidewalk are unnecessary.

But Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said it was the city’s policy to provide sidewalks.

“We’re not just building for today but also for the future of Columbia,” Hoppe said.

The city council will consider whether to reduce the planned expansion from 28 feet to 24 feet on Dec. 17.

Should the City Council respect the wishes of some residents or follow through with its plan?

TO REPEAL OR NOT TO REPEAL?

Local business owners Joel Thiel of Otto’s Corner Bar and Grill and Betty Hamilton of Tiger Club filed a petition with the City Council to repeal its ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places.

The petition has yet to be certified by checking if those who signed the petition are registered voters. That job falls to City Clerk Sheela Amin, who estimated that this petition has between 2,700 and 2,800 signatures. The number of signatures required by city charter to send the petition to the City Council is 20 percent of voters from the last municipal election, which comes to 2,580.

The council then has a choice whether to repeal the ban or put the future of the ban to a vote in an upcoming election. This could occur in April, said City Manager Bill Watkins.

Thiel said he has seen a 35 percent drop in business since the ban was put in place in January after a 4-3 vote by the council on Oct. 10, 2006.

If the petition is certified, should the City Council repeal the ban or leave it up to voters to decide?

PLANNED PARENTHOOD INVESTIGATION

An anti-abortion coalition filed a petition last week for an investigation of Planned Parenthood practices in Overland Park, Kan.

The petition contained enough signatures from voters to request a grand jury. A rarely used Kansas law allows state residents to petition for grand jury investigations, according to Brian Newby, Johnson County election commissioner.

A judges’ panel will have to approve the petition language within a two-month window for selection of 15 registered voters for a grand jury.

The goal of the investigation is to force Planned Parenthood to follow abortion laws, said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, which is one of the groups comprising the anti-abortion coalition. The petition specifically requests an investigation of allegations that illegal late-term abortions and illegal trafficking in fetal tissue occurred between 2004 and 2007.

However, Peter Brownlie, president of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the investigation will not affect facility operations in either state because there is no criminal wrongdoing.

Is the grand jury investigation aimed at preventing Planned Parenthood from functioning or necessary to ensure accountability?

RELIGIOUS EXODUS

MU’s religious studies department has seen a total turnover of regular faculty in the past 10 years.

Now, according to Robert Baum, an associate professor of religious studies, the department is filled by a “preponderantly junior faculty.”

Five of the eight full-time faculty members earn less than $50,000 a year. Baum’s raise this year was only one-third of the rate of inflation.

The situation is largely due to cuts in state appropriations that required state campuses to hike tuition.

Department chair Philip Clart said religious studies does not attract enough outside funding to make up the difference.

“It’s the same story for all humanities departments,” Clart said.

MU is hoping to resolve the problem with a new financial plan called “Compete Missouri.”

In the meantime, nine out of 10 classes offered by the department are filled to capacity, Clart said.

“The diversity of courses we’d like to offer can’t be done because we don’t have enough staff,” Baum said. “We could double in size and still be understaffed.”

Should MU work harder to retain its humanities faculty, and if so, how?

PUBLIC PARK PARTICIPATION

Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Department is making plans for a second regional park and wants your input about what features and facilities it should include.

“We want everyone involved,” department director Mike Hood said. “We’d like to involve the community in this process just as completely as we can.”

The park will sit on about 460 acres near Gans Creek and Rock Bridge State Park on the Philip tract and the Crane property just west of U.S. 63, which includes a lake. A $250,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation will be used to develop the lake for fishing.

Residents attending a public meeting Thursday offered their ideas for playgrounds, existing structures, trails, youth recreational fields, equestrian facilities and educational facilities.

Hood estimated drawing up a master plan would take about 18 months. The public forum, and a similar upcoming forum, is part of the first phase of planning.

The Parks and Recreation Department is holding its next public forum from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday at Rock Bridge High School.

What are your ideas for a new park in Columbia?

--- compiled by Grant Smith


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