Wanted: a hero to restore hope

Like many people, I had hoped Smarty Jones would win the Triple Crown. I’m not a great horse racing fan, I’m just desperate to have something wonderful happen that Americans could share. Obviously, I’d rather hear an announcement that a cure has been found for cancer or AIDS, but since nothing that spectacular seems imminent, I would have settled for a big win at the track.

I think we are in need of one, genuine, authentic hero we can all salute. We need to have one whose heroic deeds we all witness with our own eyes. We’re worn out with pseudo-heroes that, somehow, never pan out to equal their press agents’ accounts of their triumphs. I’ve gotten to the point where I tend to mistrust almost everything I hear on television. And with so much confusion going on about this war in Iraq, it’s hard to tell the winners from the losers.

Neighborhood currents

It is a bright and sunny day outside, but storm water from rain the day before still runs in the gutters along Woodside Drive. When thunderstorms strike, a two- to three-inch current can pick up in the streets, residents say.

Ray Martin has been living in the northeast Columbia neighborhood for two years, and his basement has flooded about 30 times.

Family: Valencia scared of Rios

Jesse Valencia told family and friends that he was frightened of a Columbia police officer with whom he had become involved. “Jesse was worried about himself,” said Lupe Valencia, the stepfather of the 23-year-old MU student, whose body was found June 5 in a yard about a half-block from his East Campus apartment. His throat had been cut. “He was scared of this guy.”

His mother and grandmother both said Valencia told them an officer was stalking him.

Police address Valencia’s death at PrideFest

At 2 p.m. Saturday — exactly one week after MU student Jesse Valencia’s body was found in East Campus — the crowd at PrideFest 2004 paused for a moment of silence in Valencia’s honor.

Valencia’s death added a somber note to the celebration at Cosmo Park. Many attendees wore black armbands in his memory.

Blacks twice as likely to be searched

Blacks in Columbia are more than twice as likely to be searched during a traffic stop than whites, according to data compiled by Columbia police and reported to the state attorney general.

In 2003, Columbia police conducted 1,777 searches during traffic stops. Whites were searched less than 9 percent of the time; blacks were searched just under 24 percent.

City to add new signal timers

Downtown pedestrians soon won’t have to guess how much time they have to cross intersections along Broadway.

The city says it will soon begin installing seven new pedestrian signals that count down the seconds before cross traffic gets the green light.

Entertaining tolerance

Rainbow-colored streamers and balloons brightened up the picnic shelter where the Columbia/Mid-Missouri Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Coalition held PrideFest 2004 Saturday in Cosmo Park.

Local entertainers and prominent voices in the LGBT community spoke between musical sets, keeping the microphone active throughout the event which ran from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some entertainers used their time at the microphone to address the issue of the same-sex marriage ban amendment being placed on the August primary ballot in Missouri.

School hurts camps’ numbers

As the Columbia School District prepares to launch its Summer Adventure program Monday, area summer youth programs are addressing enrollment concerns, caused in part by the record number of district summer school participants.

The all-day, tuition-free district program has contributed to decreased enrollment for youth programs at the Activity and Recreation Center. Steve Evers, recreation specialist, said the center expected such a decline.

Questions hold up proposed rezoning

Overwhelming concern from neighbors about a lack of time to consider a proposal to rezone land for 68 new homes in the Green Meadows area prompted the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission to table the plan on Thursday night.

About 100 residents showed up at the meeting to voice their concerns about the plan offered by developer Don Stohldrier, who is asking that three single-family residential tracts totaling about 17 acres be rezoned as planned unit developments.

Tuition waiver offers UM faculty and staff savings

For MU anthropology professor Lee Lyman, saving $1,000 is better than nothing.

With a son in his final semester at MU, Lyman was able to save that much by taking advantage of the UM system’s faculty and staff tuition waiver.

State employees count on welfare

JEFFERSON CITY — Pamela Current spends her days at a state psychiatric hospital caring for young people with mental illness and teaching them skills to cope with daily life, from personal hygiene to cooking.

But when it comes to her own health care needs, and those of her two young children, she must rely on a government program for the poor, elderly and disabled to help cover the costs.

Lake’s vanishing is no act

WILDWOOD — To Donna Ripp, it’s nothing but freaky — millions of gallons of the manmade, 23-acre lake vanish, swallowed up by a sinkhole in a matter of days like a plug pulled from a filled bathtub.

Left to question is whether property values of folks who paid good money in this affluent St. Louis suburb for a lakeside view went down the drain as well.

The gift to be simple

Before Joel Hartman was born, his mother left a Pennsylvania Plain Mennonite community in Lancaster County. As a child, young Joel always pondered the reason behind it.

“I could never get her to articulate why she decided to leave,” Hartman said, recalling how he tried to solve the mystery by asking indirect questions.

Harmony at work

In March, 50 MU students from Campus Crusade for Christ traveled to Harmons, Jamaica, to try to improve the lives of residents there. By helping others, the students learned valuable lessons about themselves and about the hardships and beauty found on the island.

The trip was organized by Won by One, a Christian mission group begun in 1988. Henry and Linda Shaffer started the group after Hurricane Gilbert decimated Jamaica. The owners of a construction company, the Schaffers went to Jamaica with hurricane relief.

Home sale turns into price war

Our house at the lake has been on the market for about three months. Selling my house has always been a bit emotional for me, but quite frankly, I’ve never liked this particular house. We bought it when our grandchildren were little and several of our kids would come down almost every weekend. Now that the grandchildren are older, they have so many activities that the house is abandoned most of the year. Last year we found some land and decided to build a “smaller” home where we had everything on one level. With three levels, the old house is a devil to keep clean. But it has a major selling point — it’s less than a minute from the outlet mall.

Since we’ve had the house on the market, it hasn’t been much fun going to the lake. I have to keep the house in pristine condition at all times because I never know when someone is going to show it.

Meet the candidates

Boone County voters will go to the polls in an Aug. 3 primary and a Nov. 2 general election for federal, state and county offices.

The ballot will include state representative seats in the ninth, 21st and 23rd districts. None of those races have contested primaries.

This week, the Missourian takes a look at the candidates for those three seats.

Candidates debate at club

Continuing with its weekly invitation to Democratic state representative candidates to join in debate, the Muleskinners Democratic club hosted candidates for the 24th District seat Friday.

Travis Ballenger and Greg Casey were given time to introduce themselves to the audience as well as respond to questions posed by the moderator and people in attendance.

Columbia police officer escapes protective custody

Columbia police officer Steven Rios was talked down from a parking garage ledge on the MU campus Friday night after escaping from protective custody across the street at a mental health center.

Columbia police Capt. Zim Schwartze said officers believed Rios intended to harm himself by jumping from the roof of the five-story garage. Rios, 27, escaped from the Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center; Schwartze said police were notified at 7:17 p.m. He ran west from the facility and ran to the top of the nearby Maryland Avenue garage, Schwartze said.

Prepare with care

Although CARE is receiving more money to expand the program this summer and serve a record number of youth, some returning employers are hiring fewer trainees.

“We had four CARE kids, but this year we just have one because there was too much supervisory work,” said Dee Anne Sneed, office support staff at MU Child Development Lab and CARE trainee supervisor. “Twenty hours is a lot,” she said, referring to the number hours per week trainees work with employers.

Summer classes a logistical problem

Starting Monday, more than 7,000 Columbia students will return to the classroom, the largest summer enrollment ever for the district. They will attend the Summer Adventure program, a 24-day school session coordinated by Newton Learning.

This is the first year the district has hired an independent company to organize summer school, offered for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. With increased publicity, monetary attendance incentives — for example, a $100 shopping card for perfect attendance — and conveniences such as bus transportation and school lunches, the Newton Learning program has attracted more than twice the projected enrollment.