- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 11

Sam throws stereotypes for a loss:

Michael Sam is an All-American in more ways than one.

As an athlete, a team player and an NFL prospect from a hardscrabble background, Mr. Sam is impressive. As a college student, an African-American campus leader and a young man with a future, Mr. Sam is respected.

And now that the adjective gay will forever precede his name, and is there by his own choice, Mr. Sam has shown the courage and honesty that will put him in many personal halls of fame, no matter the direction of his athletic future.

That he had the guts to come out to his teammates months ago, to campus friends years ago, and to the world on Sunday, shows the core of Mr. Sam. These are the qualities that make a person an All-American in life, and not just on the playing field.

That he did this before April’s NFL draft, where he is predicted to be a mid-round selection, took an added dollop of gumption. Mr. Sam, a defensive lineman for the Tigers and Mizzou’s first unanimous All-American in 50 years, told the media that he wanted to focus on playing football and graduating and didn’t want his sexuality to be a distraction.

“I want to own my own truth,” is the way Mr. Sam put it. And now he does.

No more hiding in the shadows, pretending to be something he isn’t. Mr. Sam, 24, is out, loud and proud. Good for him.

And good for his teammates, Coach Gary Pinkel and his staff, and athletic director Mike Alden. They have given a textbook demonstration on how to handle what shouldn’t be - but still is - a delicate issue of a personal nature on a very public stage.

Other athletes courageously have come out about their sexuality, but usually in the twilight of their careers, or even in retirement. Mr. Sam’s pro career is just dawning.

It’s great that the NFL says it has his back. Greg Aiello, NFL senior vice president of communications, said in a statement: “We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

Society is changing, as well as the culture of professional sports. Marriage used to mean one thing, and now it means more things. The idea of what a family is used to be narrowly defined, but now people accept that it can mean bonds of friendship as well as blood.

And changing, too, thanks in part to Mr. Sam, is the definition of a football player and a teammate.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been working on heightening awareness in the league about sexual orientation and harassment. He sent a policy statement to coaches, team presidents and general managers last year saying anyone involved in drafting players or making personnel decisions “must not seek information” about their sexuality.

No one will have to wonder about Mr. Sam. He put it out there. Now it’s up to a team to draft him and let him play the game. No questions asked.


St. Joseph News-Press, Feb. 8

Call incentives truce to save us millions:

The fight to lure jobs back and forth across the state line in the Kansas City metro area is nearly a zero-sum game - one that can and should be stopped for the benefit of all taxpayers.

For a long time now, legislators in Jefferson City and Topeka have struggled to deal with this problem that neither group can solve on its own. Now, a practical solution has been offered in Missouri, and lawmakers in both states need to seize the moment.

As reported, state Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, is sponsoring a measure that would suspend the awarding of state tax incentives for businesses relocating from one side of the state line to the other. The ban would apply only to the seven counties of the metro area, and only if Kansas adopts a similar prohibition by legislation or executive order.

We are not ready to see this idea bogged down out of concern that metro cities and counties could continue to offer their own tax incentives. At least we wouldn’t be paying for those efforts.

Nor do we think this proposal should be sidetracked over concerns about businesses that operate on both sides of the state line and want to consolidate operations. Surely the rules can be written to allow businesses to access appropriate state incentives in those instances.

Our resolve that something should be done as soon as possible - this session - is supported by a report provided to Missouri legislators.

Bill Hall with the Hall Family Foundation in Kansas City told lawmakers of a study that looked at two incentive programs, one each for Missouri and Kansas. Since 2009, incentives awarded from those programs alone have resulted in a waiver of $217 million in state taxes in pursuit of more than 6,200 jobs that moved from one side of the state line to the other.

For all of that effort and expense, the Kansas counties of Johnson and Wyandotte posted a net gain of just 414 jobs and Jackson County, Mo., posted a loss of the same amount.

And remember these tax waivers have the effect of reducing the amount of money available to run government and meet social needs. This puts more pressure on individuals and business taxpayers still on the tax rolls across Missouri and Kansas.

Far beyond the metro area, these unproductive incentives are costing us money.


The Joplin Globe, Feb. 8

Can you hear us now?:

The Missouri Senate on Feb. 6 hurt the state’s cities and counties when it quickly approved a series of bills that would limit local control over cellphone towers.

According to The Associated Press, the Senate approved bills that would reinstate many of the provisions of a 2013 law that was struck down in court. The lawmakers are trying to get around the court’s decision by breaking up the measure into separate bills.

When state lawmakers had the chance to let local governments retain control of the towers, they showed they are willing to hand over power to telecommunication giants.

The Missouri Municipal League, which represents more than 670 cities, towns and villages, has voiced strong opposition to these bills. As the bills move to the House, there is speculation that lawmakers are being influenced by telecommunications companies to put the bills on the fast track.

The MML warns that they would gut local land-use oversight in communities such as ours. If these bills pass, local planning and zoning commissions would no longer even be consulted on these land-use issues.

We expect these bills to land quickly in the House. We encourage you to tell your state representative that you want your local council or county commission to be in charge of local land use - those panels should be the ones to make the decisions about the placement of telecommunications equipment.

After all, it’s your neighborhood and your property values that are at stake.

Now is the time for clear communication.


The Kansas City Star, Feb. 6

Koster off the mark with bad egg lawsuit:

Political ambition appears to be scrambling Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster’s thinking.

The Democratic state official, whose sights on the governor’s office are well known, is attempting to cozy up to Missouri agricultural interests by getting the state involved in a long-shot, chicken-and-egg lawsuit.

Koster has sued the state of California over a law requiring that producers who sell eggs in that state must provide hens with enough room in their cages to stand up, turn around and spread their wings. Complying with that standard would create economic burdens for Missouri egg producers, he says.

California’s standard is reasonable. Few consumers want to think about this when they’re enjoying an omelet, but most egg-producing hens in the United States are stacked in cages so cramped their muscles and bones waste away. They suffer unduly so that egg producers, which are mostly large agricultural corporations, can enjoy healthy profits.

Fortunately - in part because of the California law - the industry is starting to move toward more humane treatment of egg-laying hens. It’s significant that egg producers themselves have not taken legal action against California’s new standard. Neither have attorneys general from the largest egg-producing states - or any other state.

Just Missouri.

Koster argues that the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause prevents one state from regulating the agricultural practices of other states. He says his lawsuit should cost Missouri taxpayers no more than $10,000.

That sounds low for a federal case. And perhaps not an easy one. Producers and sellers of foie gras made the same argument after California banned force-feeding of ducks and geese in order to produce an oversized liver. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the claim, saying California was not restricting any state’s commerce because its law treated in-state and out-of-state producers the same.

Koster announced his intention to file the lawsuit at a meeting of the politically influential Missouri Farm Bureau, which balks at nearly any attempt to legislate agricultural practices. He has rolled out a lame slippery slope argument - what if California required that soybeans be harvested by hand, for instance?

We haven’t heard much of a call for hand-picked soybeans. But plenty of people want their eggs to be produced in humane and safe conditions.

Missouri’s attorney general should not be standing in the way.

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