Five ideas: What are your thoughts on these issues in the news this week?

Saturday, December 1, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:02 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Settlement unsettles

Land conservationists are criticizing a settlement reached Wednesday regarding the Taum Sauk reservoir that collapsed two years ago.

The collapse, caused by equipment in need of repair at a hydroelectric plant, flooded Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park and injured a family of five.

The settlement between the state and Ameren calls for the utility company to spend $103 million to restore the state park and reservoir and pay about $70 million in damages. That includes $18 million to expand the Katy Trail and $5 million for education in Reynolds County. The settlement, which must be approved in Reynolds County Circuit Court, ends a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general.

Environmentalists said the state should have received rights to adjacent land instead of expanding the Katy Trail.

Former Missouri Parks Association President Susan Flader said Church Mountain and the Taum Sauk Creek Valley were included in earlier agreements but were removed from this settlement.

Did the state and the people of Missouri get a raw deal in this settlement, or is this an equitable solution to the reservoir collapse?

This little light of mine

Sparked by recent controversy in the governor’s office, the Missouri Democratic Party released on online game that lets players aim a spotlight on Gov. Matt Blunt to prevent him from deleting e-mails.

The controversy began when the Springfield News Leader requested e-mails and was told by Blunt’s office that they had been deleted. Blunt has since ordered the Office of Administration to develop a system to retain all state e-mails.

“It just seems that while Democrats want to spend their time and donate their resources to frivolous pursuits in a make-believe world, Gov. Blunt and Republicans are focused on real world concerns, which is certainly no game,” said Paul Sloca, Missouri Republican Party spokesman. “Missourians want grown-ups running the state, not children.”

But Jack Cardetti, Missouri Democratic Party spokesman, said the game has generated positive feedback.

Is the Missouri Democratic Party fulfilling a vital role to keep those in power in check, or is it making light of a serious issue? Should more be done to ensure government transparency?

How many roads must a city walk down?

The city is considering taking control of 12 streets that the Missouri Department of Transportation currently maintains.

“The majority of the roads that (the city) is taking over are streets that the city is basically taking care of anyway,” said Mike Schupp, an engineer with the transportation department.

Other streets near schools will be taken over by the city to ensure quicker snow removal.

In March, the transportation department encouraged taking control of College Avenue from Stadium Boulevard to Business Loop 70. That’s no longer part of the plan because the road is so long.

The cost to the city for controlling the streets is unclear.

“There is no actual cost associated with the city taking over these 12 street sections,” according to an e-mail from Columbia Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem. “MoDOT is taking care of getting them up to city standards before we take them over.”

But the city will eventually have to pay for staff salaries, road maintenance and snow removal.

Should the city take control of the streets or leave things as they are?

Spiking patrols

Columbia is experiencing a spike in violent crime, according to Police Chief Randy Boehm.

A 55-year-old hotel manager was murdered Nov. 24 at a Comfort Inn on Clark Lane. The suspect in the case is also suspected of a robbery at a hotel on Clark Lane, and according to police statistics, violent crime is up 17 percent this year.

In response, Boehm said additional police teams will patrol the city to help get violent crime under control.

Before the new patrols were announced, Missourian columnist David Rosman decried the increase in crime and officials’ explanations.

“What I do not understand is how elected officials can dismiss these reports with nonsensical explanations expecting the citizens to shrug off the increase in crime as if it is nothing unusual,” Rosman wrote Thursday.

Rick Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said Columbia’s upswing in violent crime mirrors that of the nation the past couple years.

Are new patrols a satisfactory solution to Columbia’s increase in violent crime or must more be done?

Overlay or overkill?

Residents and Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission have yet to reach a consensus in regards to a plan for an urban conservation overlay district in the North Central Columbia neighborhood.

The overlay district would hope to preserve the neighborhood from unwanted development by giving control of development and other projects to the residents.

Debate lasted an hour and a half Thursday night, which follows a three and a half hour debate at a commission meeting Oct. 4. Commission members and residents both criticized the current plan Thursday night.

Some residents said the plan was too vague and would burden both developers and residents, but commission member Helen Anthony said making the building requirements any more specific would “ruin” the plan.

Commission members and residents debated the conditions for requiring project approval from a resident-appointed design review board and whether schools or churches should be exempt from the plan’s restrictions.

Comments from a public hearing scheduled for Thursday will be used to draft a more specific proposal.

Should residents and the Planning and Zoning Commission continue to work together to form a more perfect plan, or should they drop the idea?

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