To crowds, Santa’s worth the cold wait

Gloomy, overcast skies and whispers about Columbia’s first winter snowfall couldn’t keep a crowd from gathering downtown Sunday afternoon to ring in the holiday season.

The city’s annual holiday parade, organized this year by the Columbia Jaycees, brought spectators of all ages downtown to watch dozens of floats cruise down Broadway from College Avenue to Fourth Street.

Developers form group to gain more influence

A group of Columbia developers have come together to gain a larger influence in the city’s development.

The Central Missouri Development Council formed earlier this year with the purpose of working with the development community to have a better voice and to improve communication among developers, the city, the county and the community, interim executive director and group spokesman Don Stamper said.

Freshmen of the future

As this year’s record number of MU freshmen prepare for finals, university administrators are faced with a math problem of their own: what to do with an even bigger class of freshmen next fall. Compared to last year, applications as of Nov. 1 are up about 18.5 percent.

While admissions officers are excited by the increase — in quality as well as number — they caution that it is still too early to tell if 2004 will be another record year for enrollment. Though the admissions office declines to prophesy, other campus administrators are beginning to plan. After all, they only have eight months to find places to put these would-be Tigers.

Identifying the money-grubbers

Well, one of those “free-market advocates” chewed me out pretty good after last week’s column and tried to teach me not to take their names in vain again. Unfortunately, I’m past the point where those race and gender comments have any effect on me. Guys, I thought, I was born under segregation, went through the civil rights era and although affirmative action and I have never touched bases, I’ve heard that garbage a million times. Actually, we don’t have a fight. They have all the money and political power and can do anything they want, anything except make me lie down and roll over.

This is one of those periods in my life when I’m glad that I grew up in a ghetto. That’s where I learned about all the games people play. I experienced my first acquaintances with several people who made their living by hustling the streets. I found out how talking fast and being skilled at misdirecting people could result in amazing success, depending on how well you learned the game. In fact, I’ve found out since, that all political, economic and generic con games are based on those same old street games. The most valuable part of my education was when I witnessed firsthand how often those who lied to people also stole from them. I was fortunate to come from people who had a value system that defined lying and stealing as morally wrong, at any level.

Area just a stop for many educated singles

More young, educated single people left the Columbia area than moved in during the five-year period that ended in 2000, according to recently released U.S. Census data.

In its report, the Census Bureau suggests that people 25 to 39 years old and single who have at least one bachelor’s degree are important to an area’s economy because they’re viewed as “human capital” that can foster economic growth.

UM making another bid to lease out acreage

For the past two years, the UM system has tried to get permission from the state to lease out 25 acres at College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard for a developer to build a hotel and a convention center.

Winning that approval would be music to MU’s ears because it would use the lease money to build a performing arts center.

She got game

Picture five lines of high school girls basketball players. Each line is five players deep. Each of these players has a ball, and row by row, players sprint down the court, stop for crossovers first at the free-throw line, then at mid-court and then at the next free-throw line. Assistant coaches swipe at the players’ crossovers.

There is an air of discipline and focus in the gym. An injured player lies on her back, ice wrapped around a knee and works on her shooting form. She flicks a ball into the air repeatedly.

The equations of education=?

Otto Fajen and Brian Long, legislative assistants with the Missouri General Assembly, were faced with a tight deadline. In just a few hours, they had to compose two 140-page documents determining the financial future for 524 school districts and roughly 900,000 students.

Nothing less than the entire Missouri public school financial system was riding on their handiwork.

The equations of education=?: Part Three

While the future of the formula is not completely clear, one thing is certain: Any changes will come with a price, both political and financial.

Lack of funding weakens formula

The very first line of Missouri’s foundation formula establishes a relationship between the amount of money available and the amount of money needed. It’s called the “proration factor.”

In an ideal world, that factor should be 1. In the real world, it now sits at either .82, which is the lowest estimate, or .87, which is the highest.

Confusion delays water projects

Confusion between Boone County government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has delayed about 20 county maintenance projects in the past year alone.

It’s a situation that has county officials frustrated and grappling for a solution.

First influenza case reported in county

The first case of influenza was recently reported by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health, but Mary Martin, public health manager for the department, said that doesn’t mean there haven’t been more cases.

“Most people that get influenza aren’t tested,” Martin said. “If people get the flu, they usually stay home and don’t go to the doctor.”

A new spin on rugby

The name has changed throughout the years, but the rules haven’t. What began as “murderball” is now the fastest-growing wheelchair sport: wheelchair rugby.

Columbia’s first Wheelchair Rugby Hit Hunger Day was held Saturday at Wilson’s Total Fitness. Those who attended were asked to bring a nonperishable food item or cash donation. The proceeds benefited the Central Missouri Food Bank.

Lasting Vision

In quill-scratched ink, the original minutes of the First Baptist Church of Columbia declare the intention of 11 people to follow certain tenets.

No. 1: “We believe in our only true and living God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and these three are one.”

Building the ultimate mudball

Mud dots the street in front of the Rucker house in Centralia, where 9-year-old Johnny Veazey works on his messy masterpiece. He and four of his friends crowd around a patch of dirt in a grassy ditch next to the street. Some sit crossed-legged; others lie down, propped up on their elbows.

Each boy is dressed in mud. Jacob Rucker, 7, has clumps stuck to his chin. Danny Beachy, 10, has a smudge in the middle of his forehead. And Johnny’s arms look like they have been dipped up to the elbow in brownie mix. But it doesn’t matter. The boys have a job to do.

The equations of education=?: Part Two

Major issues to address include tax reassessments, a special “hold-harmless” clause and the “proration factor.”

Holiday lights

Council OKs Beck for one more year

Ray Beck will continue as Columbia’s city manager for at least another year, but members of the Columbia City Council worry whether they’re paying him enough.

After giving Beck a stellar review for his performance over the past year, the council decided Wednesday night to extend his contract another year. Beck’s new salary will be $128,911, which includes a 2 percent merit increase and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. The council also agreed to a one-time payment of $200 to defray the higher cost of medical insurance.

Holiday mission

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Hallsville Elementary School has had a world map hanging outside the principal’s office. The map has the names and locations of 31 Hallsville residents who are in active military service around the world.

This holiday season, Hallsville is trying to make sure its more than 1,200 residents stay in touch with the city’s service members. The city is preparing care packages to send to soldiers stationed overseas, particularly in Iraq and Kosovo.

Raises, insurance boosts county costs

Boone County government might have to dip into reserves to get through 2004, according to a preliminary budget prepared by County Auditor June Pitchford.