- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

St. Joseph News-Press, April 6

Military report on target:

Missouri state officials deserve credit for realizing more needs to be done, and soon, to secure and hopefully expand our federal investments supporting the military.

Gov. Jay Nixon recognized this in remarks in January, citing total U.S. Department of Defense spending in Missouri at nearly $15 billion annually. Treasurer Clint Zweifel echoed this last week with release of a report finding this federal outlay multiplies into $40 billion in economic activity each year and more than 275,000 jobs.

After grasping the importance, then comes the sense of urgency. It does not require an extensive study to find other states where military personnel and the investments they represent are given greater priority on the public’s agenda.

Gov. Nixon tasked Mr. Zweifel with making a quick but thorough examination of the current state of support for the military in Missouri. In his recent report, Mr. Zweifel provided evidence in 16 recommendations that even a whirlwind fact-finding effort can shed insights. As in:

- The state should be more purposeful, from the governor’s office on down, in supporting and seeking to grow our military investments.

This includes an effort to develop partnerships with military communities, and a related initiative to foster creation of local community organizations that can provide consistent, knowledgeable support for installations and their personnel. It also includes a stated interest in coordinating targeted economic development efforts around military installations.

- The state should strive to understand the specific challenges and opportunities for our military installations and the Missouri National Guard.

Nowhere is this more important than the Air National Guard base at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph. Mr. Zweifel’s report correctly identifies the Missouri River levee system, which is largely maintained by the federal government, as a major issue locally and for the military installation.

“The state should work quickly with community leaders in the area and federal officials to organize a plan of action to address the future of the levee,” the report says.

This is a vital recommendation in tune with local realities and the national interest in supporting Air Guard operations that meet the tactical training needs of 20 allied nations.


Washington Missouri, April 6

Ideology vs. pragmatism:

A testy 20-minute exchange between two state GOP senators this past week offered a microcosm of the internal struggle playing out within the Republican Party across the country.

The tug-of-war in the GOP is one of rigid ideology versus pragmatism. Some call it a tension between obstructionism and problem-solving.

The subject being debated on the Senate floor is what some have said was the first serious Republican plan to expand Medicaid, the federal program that provides health care benefits to the poor.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, proposed a plan revamping management of Missouri’s Medicaid program as well as other structural changes.

The Springfield News Leader reported that Silvey’s proposal, which has not yet been introduced as legislation, would cover individuals up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level through a managed care plan. Individuals between 100 percent and 138 percent would be enrolled in a health care exchange plan - similar to what is found in a bill sponsored by Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence.

Silvey’s plan is more expansive than Torpey’s in changing the state’s welfare programs. Under Silvey’s plan, Electronic Benefit Transfer (food stamp) cards would have a photographic ID. Establishments would be required to match the photograph to the purchaser.

In addition, Silvey’s plan imposes a work requirement on food stamp recipients. Individuals would have to offer proof of work status or show that they are seeking work or further education.

Food stamp recipients would be required to report any instances in which their monthly gross income exceeds the maximum allowed for their household size and would have to undergo a recertification process each year.

Silvey’s proposal was billed as a way to achieve some entitlement reforms and still provide insurance for an estimated 300,000 adults who are not eligible under Missouri’s current Medicaid program.

John Lamping, R-St. Louis, didn’t see it that way. To Lamping, the plan appeared to be a concession to ObamaCare. “It’s time to take the hard stand and say ‘No.’ You’re taking the pragmatic stand, the easy stand,” an agitated Lamping said to Silvey.

That set off a heated exchange between the two conservative lawmakers which made many Republicans uncomfortable.

“It’s easy? It’s easy for me to stand up in the Republican Party with people like yourself who would rather talk about sound bites and ObamaCare than the actual problems ObamaCare has created? It’s easier for me to do that than it is to stand with you and never get into the issue?” Silvey fired back.

“Where we are today is a political quagmire,” said Silvey, “You have people who are more interested in sound bites and more interested in obstructing then they are in realizing what the reality of the situation is and dealing with it.”

Silvey had previously accused lawmakers of “a dereliction of duty” for refusing to deal with big problems, such as “a doughnut hole of several hundred thousand Missourians” who earn too little to qualify for Missouri’s Medicaid program but too much to qualify for federally subsidized insurance policies, according to The Associated Press.

Silvey is right. For too long Republicans have been content to be the party of “no” without offering alternative or competing solutions. They have clung to obstructionism like a security blanket.

There is no better example than in the area of health care. It’s easy to be opposed to ObamaCare. It is not a perfect bill even though it is predicated on many free-market principles previously advocated by Republicans. It is costly and, in many respects, unfair. For instance, it created the coverage gap at the heart of the dispute between Silvey and Lamping.

But it is the law of the land and it is not going away. Sometimes you have to play the cards you are dealt.

As distasteful as it may be, Silvey is trying to make it work in Missouri. Republicans should follow his lead.

However justified, frustration is not a workable political platform. Just saying “No” is not a winning agenda and inaction on this issue is just not smart.


The Fulton Sun, April 6

Don’t let ‘cry wolf’ syndrome bite you later:

We live in tornado alley, but sometimes it can feel like we’re on the side street next to the alley.

The sirens sound, the TV meteorologists tell us to take cover, then nothing happens.

At some point, we have to wonder what’s the point of these tornado warnings when we end up with no damage.

While technology has created “cry wolf” syndrome, we have to keep in mind it’s also created a valuable tool to protect us.

Thursday, April 3, marked the 40th anniversary of the “Super Outbreak.” In 16 hours, 148 tornadoes touched down in 13 states killing 330 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

According to noaa.gov and a documentary on The Weather Channel, the technology to track storms in 1974 was antiquated at best - it was similar to the radar used to detect airplanes during World War II.

“National Weather Service forecasters could see only green blobs on their radar scopes and relied on visual confirmation to issue tornado warnings,” an article on noaa.gov states.

The Doppler radar we’re all familiar with today detects moisture. That gives meteorologists an accurate idea of speed and direction of a storm; it also produces signatures that indicate rotation. We still never know 100 percent whether a tornado is on the ground unless human eyes see it and report it, but it gives trained weather spotters a specific location to look for potential twisters. But it’s not that easy, an available spotter must find a clear view from a safe location to spot a wall cloud or funnel cloud. Even then, while those are precursors to a tornado on the ground, those don’t always make to the ground or are sometimes very weak and short lived.

While it’s frustrating to hear the warnings and have nothing happen, it’s better than 40 years ago when many people had little or no warning before a tornado hit.

Sometimes the technology is putting us ahead of the storm. The storm that spurred the tornado warning in nearby Cole and Osage counties Thursday evening that seemed to have a lot of hype for no damage later produced a confirmed twister on the ground just west of St. Louis.

Additionally, it’s important to remember that while we receive more warnings than damage, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to mother nature’s destruction.

In 62 years, there have just been nine tornadoes in Joplin - seven EF-0 or EF-1 ratings and most shortlived, according to tornadohistoryproject.com. One was an F4 (the Fujita scale was used until 2007 when the National Weather Service switched to the Enhanced-Fujita scale) in 1954, and we all remember the deadliest tornado on record after an EF-5 tore through the southwest Missouri town in 2011.

The community of Ruskin Heights on the southeast corner of the Kansas City metropolitan area has had just one tornado in 62 years, according to tornadohistoryproject.com, and it was the deadliest tornado in modern record keeping until the Joplin tornado three years ago.

Callaway County is not immune, either. On April 10, 2001, one person died when an F-1 tornado hit Fulton, according to tornadohistoryproject.com.

On March 13, 2006, an F-2 lasted 30 minutes covering 13 miles, just missing Fulton by a few miles to the south, according to tornadohistoryproject.com.

On March 10, 2010, a tornado damaged some of the athletic facilities at South Callaway High School just north of Mokane, according to an interactive graphic produced by the Kansas City Star last week with information gathered from NOAA.

An F-0 skirted the south/southeast side of Fulton in 1982.

So despite the seemingly empty warnings, heed them. Use all the technology at your fingertips: television, radio, smartphones, tablets and computers to track the storm and find out what it’s actually doing as the warnings are issued so you can make the best determination when and how to seek shelter.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 4

Optimism must drive attempts to improve region’s schools:

The storm clouds over public schools in the St. Louis region have been charged with negativity lately. From the failure of the Normandy and Riverview Gardens school districts to reach state accreditation, to the fallout from the transfer crisis that followed their failure, to the slipping test scores in some of the provisionally accredited St. Louis Public Schools, to the Legislature’s failure to fund schools or deal with the transfer crisis, to the ridiculous attack on new Common Core standards by a few misguided Republicans, there has been more bad news than good.

So the unbridled optimism that came from Richard Barth at a breakfast in the Central Library’s refurbished grand hall on April 2 seemed out of place, if not manufactured from thin air.

“You have every reason to be unbelievably optimistic about the future for kids in St. Louis,” Mr. Barth, the CEO of the KIPP Foundation, told a couple hundred St. Louis business and civic leaders.

KIPP, which stands for the Knowledge is Power Program, operates the most successful nonprofit charter school organization in the country. On Wednesday, the director of KIPP St. Louis, Kelly Garrett, announced that the organization would open an elementary school in the city of St. Louis this fall. The new school would go along with its successful middle school, KIPP Inspire Academy, which regularly has among the highest test scores in the city, among both charters and traditional public schools.

The new elementary school, KIPP Victory, will be opening in the old Mitchell Elementary School in the West End neighborhood.

Mr. Barth’s optimism is rooted in a convergence of related events. First, the success of the first KIPP school is creating demand for a second. Then there’s a deep bench of trained leaders ready to lead Victory and the other four schools the organization plans to open in the next five years. The relationship between KIPP and city leaders, particularly St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams and Mayor Francis Slay, has created an atmosphere in which the school district and KIPP, a charter organization, cooperate better than in most cities.

Mr. Barth applauded Mr. Adams’ recent decision to seek nonprofit operators for some of the district’s poorest performing schools, even though it’s unlikely KIPP will be a bidder this time around. Under the KIPP model, schools are best built from the ground up. But the entrance of other high-performing school models (assuming Mr. Adams chooses wisely) to the city will again increase demand.

Eventually, Mr. Barth believes, that will create a culture in which more parents will realize that there are quality school options. They will demand those options and the system will find ways to meet that demand.


Perhaps. There are no good examples nationwide of troubled urban school districts dominated by poverty in which the achievement gap between white students and black students, or between rich and poor, has been erased. The most recent study on the achievement gap, issued in March by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, showed that every state falls behind in educating African-American children. Both Missouri and Illinois scored in the bottom third of states in that measurement.

But there are pockets of success, individual public schools, both traditional and charter, that, like KIPP Inspire, have found success raising test scores of black children living in poverty.

A common thread in those schools is that sense of optimism exuded by Mr. Barth.

“Poverty is not destiny,” he says. “That has to be at the core of what you believe.”

For a family living paycheck to paycheck, moving from one apartment to another to keep the lights on, depending on food stamps and the schools to feed their kids, walking through crime-ridden streets just to get to school, hope is a rare thing. But they must hang onto it.

Amid the drumbeat of failure that is beat into the communities with struggling schools, a little unbridled optimism is a good thing. Without it, we can’t navigate the choppy waters that lie ahead. And unless this region navigates those waters, another generation of children will be left to drown.



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