Five ideas: What people should be talking about

Saturday, December 29, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ringing in the New Year

A group of Columbia residents is pushing organizers of the local First Night celebration to consider making the event free next year. They argue that First Night, an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration that annually attracts more than 10,000 people to The District, excludes those who can’t afford the $8 to $10 buttons that allow them to get into the myriad entertainment venues. That, they say, is inappropriate for an event that gets thousands of dollars worth of financial and in-kind support from the city and other taxpayer-supported agencies.

Some of the activities associated with First Night are free. But the people who put the event together say that making the entire celebration free is a bad idea. They fear crowding, long lines and angry people who wouldn’t be able to get into the most popular venues.

While the committee pushing for a free First Night conceded long ago that it was too late to make this year’s event completely free, they’ve resolved to push their idea over the coming year. They also point to other cities in the country that have free First Night events, arguing that if they can do it, Columbia can, too.

What are your thoughts on whether First Night should be free?

Singing Mizzou’s praises

Jeff Garwood and his 12-year-old daughter, Lydia, used their creative spirit a few weeks back to compose a new fight song for MU called “This Tiger Ain’t Afraid.” The Tiger football team’s second loss to the Oklahoma Sooners was the inspiration for the song. The Garwoods said they felt Mizzou needed a bit of a morale boost after that game.

The family duet has been hustling around town trying to garner some attention for the tune, hoping it will be played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on New Year’s Day and that it might eventually rival or replace the existing sports theme song, “Fight Tiger.”

The Garwoods have enthusiastically performed the song for “Pepper and Friends” and the Missourian (you can hear it online at, and it even got some airtime at Kevin’s World, a local music shop. Its lyrics are simple and easy to remember, but it might be a bit too “groovy,” in the words of a Missourian reporter, for an entire stadium full of people to sing. Traditionalists say they like the Garwoods’ spirit but believe toppling “Fight Tiger” is unlikely.

What would it take to replace MU’s traditional fight song?

Back to the drawing board

Howard Meehan, the New Mexico artist who’s been hired to create public art for the plaza outside Columbia’s new city hall, has been asked to develop some new ideas after two city arts panels turned their thumbs down to a concept that included a 30-foot metal spire that would act as a sort of sundial at the center of a ring of monuments.

The proposal, committee members said, lacked the “wow” factor they had hoped to see. Others were disturbed that Meehan’s sketches were quite similar to art he had proposed for other cities.

Public input on Meehan’s initial concept was mixed: some loved it, others hated it. One resident called it simple and distinctive; another referred to the spire as a giant metal splinter.

So Meehan is back at it. He’s got only a few weeks but said he’s confident he can come up with an idea Columbians can embrace. He’s considering a water feature, a more traditional “gateway” concept or something symbolizing kinetic energy.

When you envision art for the city hall plaza, what do you see?

Pinkel gets a bump

MU football coach Gary Pinkel now will now receive at least $1.85 million a year following an announcement by MU Athletic Director Mike Alden that Pinkel will get a $550,000 yearly raise. His contract also was extended one year through 2012.

During the seven seasons Pinkel has been at Missouri, his team has won 48 of 85 games, most notably winning the Big 12 North title this season, an accomplishment for which Alden thinks Pinkel should be rewarded.

“We want to recognize that achievement and put our head coach in a recruiting position to capitalize on this momentum,” Alden said in a news release. Missouri also had a short-lived No. 1 ranking in both the AP and BCS standings before losing the Big 12 Conference title game earlier this month.

Several of Pinkel’s assistants and three football program administrators will also receive raises, elevating their combined salaries to a little more than $2 million.

Does Pinkel deserve a raise and a contract extension? Why or why not?

Holiday Crackdown

Columbia police issued more than 260 traffic citations this holiday shopping season through a special traffic enforcement effort. The program focused extra police patrols at seven problematic intersections along Stadium Boulevard. The two worst intersections are at Bernadette Drive and Worley Street, said Sgt. Tim Moriarity, supervisor of the traffic unit for the Police Department.

The most common citations were for vehicles blocking an intersection, passing on the shoulder of Stadium and red light violations.

Police began the program a few years ago, Moriarity said, because so many people complained about the bad traffic conditions on Stadium. “This program was started out of citizen frustration,” he said.

Despite the extra patrols, traffic along Stadium will continue to be a problem until another I-70 interchange is built, Moriarity said.

“We’ll continue to target particular problems throughout Columbia until relief is worked out for those intersections,” he said.

Have you experienced traffic problems on Stadium Boulevard? What do you think can be done to alleviate them?

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