Your Voices

Ranjith and Mihiri Udawatta have lived and worked in Columbia for more than a decade but until Tuesday had never voted in a presidential election.

Like 300 good neighbors

After almost a year of speculation about its future here, State Farm Insurance Co. announced Wednesday the transfer of roughly 300 jobs to Columbia from its Monroe, La., facility.

As part of a companywide consolidation, State Farm will move roughly 300 claims and underwriting jobs to its Columbia operations center at 4700 S. Providence Road. At least 200 more jobs will move from Monroe to Tulsa, Okla.

Monroe, Tulsa prepare for consolidation

While Columbia celebrates the prospect of 300 new jobs, city officials in Monroe, La., are trying to come to grips with State Farm Insurance Co.’s decision to close its operations center in the northeastern Louisiana city.

Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said his community is “shocked” and “devastated” by Wednesday’s announcement, which will dissolve more than 1,100 jobs in the region and move at least 500 of them to Columbia and Tulsa, Okla.

Many icy sidewalks remain

For exercise, Ed McDaniels walks twice a day in his south-side neighborhood off of Katy Lane. Lately, though, his routine has called for more than simply trotting along with Sammie, his Doberman pinscher. With winter weather hitting Columbia, every journey outside presents a challenge.

“Look at that,” McDaniels said, pointing to an ice-covered sidewalk on Misty Glen where Sammie was losing her footing. “If you are walking at night and don’t see that, you’re gone,” he said.

UM may get $190 million in trade for SMS rename

Southwest Missouri State University will get its desired name change only if legislators in both the Missouri House and Senate approve a $190.4-million bond for the University of Missouri system.

The Springfield school wants to change its name to Missouri State University to attract better students and faculty and private funding. Opponents in the UM system fear the change would take money and prestige from its four campuses.

Supporters ponder Dean’s fate

For some, the big question in the Democratic primary race is not who will win, but what happened to Howard Dean.

As recently as Jan. 13, Howard Dean was pegged as the front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination with the support of 26 percent of registered voters who described themselves as Democrats in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. However, after two rounds of primaries, many political analysts have said it’s all over for Dean. Some wonder what happened to the support Dean gained early on.

Crime statistics issued for 2003

Assaults and burglaries were the only crimes to show an increase in Columbia during 2003, according to a crime statistics report released by the Columbia Police Department.

“We’re concerned about all crime, but our priority is Part 1 crime, or felony crime,” Police Chief Randy Boehm said. “Everything but assault and burglary has gone down or stayed the same.”

Survey shows effect of I-70 plans

The shadow of the Improve I-70 project has become narrower thanks to the results of a recent survey.

The project’s “footprint,” which is the area of businesses and residences in the Interstate 70 corridor that would be affected by the project, is gaining definition with the results of a survey conducted by transportation consultant CH2M Hill. The survey is part of an ongoing study being conducted by the firm so when federal funding is available, design and construction can begin, said Buddy Desai, project manager for CH2M Hill.

Senate discusses DNA tests for felons

JEFFERSON CITY — All convicted felons in Missouri would have DNA tests on file under a proposal discussed in the Missouri Senate on Wednesday.

The bill would also compensate individuals cleared of a crime because of DNA evidence and released from prison.

A different debut

Just like the streets of Columbia, the newly founded Pedestrian Theatre Company is open to all walks of life.

The group’s first formal production, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” puts a community cast in fishnets and eyeliner to retell the story of Hedwig — who is no average blonde and no average woman.

Missouri reviews same-sex marriage ruling

JEFFERSON CITY — Massachusetts’ high court ruling Wednesday reaffirming same-sex couples’ right to marry has fired up debate among Missouri’s lawmakers.

At issue is whether Missouri will have to recognize gay marriages.

Speaker to share how Islam sees other religions

How Islam views other religions will be the focus of a lecture Friday by the head of Washington University’s religious studies department.

“Apart from its intrinsic interest, it’s important to question how different religions view each other,” said Ahmet Karamustafa, whose lecture is part of MU’s annual Paine Lectureships in Religion series.

Reason to be pleased

Gary Pinkel could have been any college football coach in the country.

Sitting in front of a crowd in the Tiger Lounge at Memorial Stadium, Pinkel beamed about his newest recruiting class. Wednesday was National Signing Day, the first day recruits can sign letters of intent with their school of choice.

Bruins stars now Tigers

Two similar paths converged again Wednesday at Rock Bridge.

Quarterback Chase Patton and linebacker Van Alexander made their oral commitments to Missouri official Wednesday when they signed letters of intent to become Tigers.

Cougars’ switch could pay off

Top 10 teams don’t normally change their starting lineups in the middle of the season, but Bob Burchard is strongly considering ignoring conventional wisdom.

Burchard, the Columbia College men’s basketball coach, said his team’s Achilles heel was exposed Jan. 29 in its 73-65 loss at McKendree (Ill.).

Victories needed to secure NCAA bid

Before and during Missouri’s Big 12 Conference game at Kansas on Monday night, Jayhawks supporters repeatedly chanted “N-I-T” at the Tigers.

The fans’ suggestions that the Tigers belong in the National Invitational Tournament aren’t necessarily correct, even considering how bleak things appear for the Tigers (9-9, 4-4 Big 12 Conference). History indicates a hot finish could vault the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament. With nine losses, though, it won’t be easy.

Repeat makes Kewps’ eyes widen

To experience a dreamlike end to its season, the Hickman wrestling team is cutting back on sleep.

In addition to their usual afternoon practice, the Kewpies have added a session starting at 6 a.m. in preparation for the Class 3 District 5 tournament at Francis Howell High on Saturday.