Beyond the big talk

Twelve-year-old Alexis Perry sings at her family’s church on Sundays, dances at a local studio and is thinking about trying out next year for the West Junior High School cheerleading squad.

Alexis, with her dark eyes set off by eyeliner under the bill of a trendy John Deere cap, says dating is pretty routine in her class. She’s dating, she says, but that pretty much means you sit next to each other at lunch, go to the movies and talk on the phone.

Cooper’s Landing to be sold

After spending nearly two decades turning a small piece of Missouri River property into a well-known area resort, Mike Cooper has decided to sell Cooper’s Landing.

It’s a decision Cooper said hasn’t come easily.

Political journalists stress importance of credibility

JEFFERSON CITY — Two of Missouri’s top political reporters say that the credibility of reporters in general has been undermined by the CBS document controversy.

"It’s bad for journalism," said the statehouse bureau chief for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Terry Ganey.

Festival attracts artists, dancers

Local artists at this weekend’s Columbia Festival of the Arts found that although they may not be profiting as much as they would at a different location, they still enjoy the festival.

“This is a good fair, it is fun to attend,” said Sandy Smith of Columbia, who was at the festival selling functional pottery.

County considers opting out of tax rate law

County officials are considering opting out of a state law that requires different tax rates for personal property and real estate.

Under the law, which Missouri counties must adopt in 2005, public entities are required to levy different rates for personal property and the three sub-classes of real estate — residential, agricultural and commercial. The law was written to prevent unequal shifts in the tax burden when the value of one class of property increases more than another.

Act aids safety in schools

Statutory rape and statutory sodomy have been added to the list of convictions that are aimed at protecting Missouri students.

The “Pupils and Special Services” statute of the Safe Schools Act was revised over the summer to add the two offenses on its list of convictions.

Conservatives speak out against Bush

Although polls continue to suggest that President Bush’s support among Republicans remains high, some local conservatives are expressing strong opposition to his foreign and fiscal policies.

Jack Walters, a self-described “classical conservative,” thinks the Bush administration has deviated from traditional conservative principles.

The man behind the machines

Although most of the people in his department at University Hospital know Mark Decker by name, he says he is OK with being known simply as “the computer guy.”

Access to e-mail, software programs and network files are among the features taken for granted by those whose jobs require daily use of technology. “People don’t realize how things get done,” Decker says.

Corps says no more remarks on Katy bridge

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided not to extend the public comment period for the Katy Railroad Bridge in Boonville.

The extension request was submitted Sept. 17 by Attorney General Jay Nixon in a letter to the corps. He had requested a 60-day extension to allow the public more time to voice their opinions.

Rezoning plans given for bigger Wal-Mart

An attorney for the developers of a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter at Broadway and Fairview Road filed a rezoning application on Tuesday, setting in motion city officials’ consideration of the plan.

Attorney Craig Van Matre filed the application with the city’s Planning and Development Department on behalf of Broadway-Fairview Venture, the entity that controls the land, and the owners of five residential lots who have agreed to sell their homes if the city approves the rezoning request.

‘Audition’ turns play inside out

Just one week ago, Hickman High School graduate Betsy Head, 25, watched nervously as a dozen actors took the stage of a small theater in New York City’s East Village. It was opening night for “The Audition,” a play she wrote, produced and brought to the stage almost entirely on her own steam and with more than $2,000 of her own money.

Unlike most producer/directors, Head had never met her cast members before they took the stage on opening night. But that’s the concept behind her show: Twelve actors, different each night, perform three-minute monologues for the audience and three New York directors. At intermission, audience members vote for their favorite male and female actor. The top six are called back for the second act, during which they “cold” read a play Head wrote — a dark comedy.

P&Z votes to rezone Maier tract

Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted Thursday to rezone the property at the end of Stadium Boulevard at U.S. 63 for a mixed commercial and residential development.

The 42-acre property, which is owned by Bruce and Kathleen Maier, is currently zoned for agricultural uses, according to the commission’s agenda. The new commercial zoning, if approved by the City Council, will give developer Stadium-63 Properties LLC the right to develop the area for commercial buildings, small offices and apartment buildings.

An Artist's Touch

The Columbia Festival of the Arts will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday on Courthouse Square and the surrounding streets. This year’s festival will host 40 live performances on three free stages. Audiences can enjoy jazz, modern dance, Celtic music, African drumming, juggling or fire-eating performances. The event — which is put on annually by the Office of Cultural Affairs — will also include free art activities for kids, food vendors and displays by local art organizations.

For a map of the festival grounds and a complete list of stage schedules for the weekend, go to

Craft retailer takes off

Hobby Lobby arrived in Columbia earlier this month, riding a wave of interest in crafts and hobbies that has never been higher. The company’s 16th store in Missouri opened Sept. 4 at Broadway and Ash Street and held its grand-opening sale through Saturday.

The craft and hobby industry has grown by 26 percent in recent years. According to the most recent Craft and Hobby Association data, it is a $29 billion industry in the United States, up from $23 billion in 2000. More than 60 percent of American households participated in craft activities in 2002. The association estimates that frequent crafters can spend as much as $1,500 on supplies in a year.

Report: Fewer get HMO from employers

JEFFERSON CITY — Missourians’ enrollment in employer-sponsored HMOs dropped more than 20 percent last year, continuing a five-year downward trend, according to a report released Thursday by the state Insurance Department.

At the same time, however, the percentage of Missourians who lacked insurance fell slightly. Eleven percent of Missourians were uninsured in 2003, compared to 15.6 percent nationally, and 11.6 percent in Missouri during 2002.

Group visits Boone County to look at election process

Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren met with international election officials Thursday to discuss U.S. election procedures.

The officials were part of Fair Election, an international election observation program made up of democratic countries around the world. Delegates travel to different states and convene to draft a report detailing what they learned from their visits. An eight-member delegation will return to the United States in November to view the election.

Push polls targeting local candidates raise concern

Becky Vanlandingham doesn’t need to answer a poll to prove she’s a Democrat.

“All these years I’ve been active in the Democratic Party,” said Vanlandingham, “all these years in politics since I was a child.”

Hulshof’s role in DeLay case questioned

While Ninth District U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof and fellow members of the House Ethics Committee have yet to take action on a June 15 complaint filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas grand jury returned 32 indictments against three consultants to a political action committee that supports DeLay.

The consultants, who worked for Texans for a Republican Majority, were charged along with eight corporations with making illegal political contributions. DeLay, however, was not indicted. Meanwhile, the ethics committee has allowed two deadlines for action on the complaint to pass.

Walks to help fight diseases

This weekend, hundreds of mid-Missourians will walk in the direction of research and awareness.

Three fund-raising walks are to benefit efforts to fight diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The first falls on Friday, when up to 500 participants are expected at Light the Night, a one-mile walk through the MU campus sponsored by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Natural Selections

Students file quickly into the cafeteria at Southern Boone County Middle School in Ashland on Monday. Some sit down immediately with packed bag lunches, but most wait in line to buy lunch.

The line moves swiftly. Students sit down, some with nachos. Others eat chicken quesadillas or munch a chef salad served with fruit and homemade cookies.