- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Springfield News-Leader, Jan. 9

Managing our riverways:

People in the Ozarks love their natural surroundings - and they hate government interference.

In the case of our Ozark National Scenic Riverways, that has created a conflict of interests.

The National Park Service is proposing a new General Management Plan for the Jacks Fork and Current rivers in Missouri. The goal of the plan, according to park service folks, is to ensure the scenic natural environment stays that way and to make the rivers safer and more inviting to visitors.

Plenty of folks in the Ozarks simply don’t believe the federal government can be trusted to do that.

Some of those folks include people who have canoe rental businesses along the rivers. They have genuine business interests they fear could be damaged by government overreach.

Others are folks who use the rivers, especially those who use motorboats, which would be restricted in the new plan. Motorboats are deemed to be too noisy and generally unsafe when using the same stretch of river as canoes, kayaks and inner tubes.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who are more interested in protecting the environment than protecting a fisherman’s right to gig at night on the rivers. They say the government isn’t going far enough in its restrictions.

Missouri’s Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has another idea. He would like to turn over the job of protecting the rivers to the state.

All of these points of view are valid. All represent legitimate concerns expressed by people who not only have personal and business interests at stake but also care deeply about our state and our natural resources.

The park service has invited those people to express their concerns, but has requested that they include alternatives and reasoning for an opinion.

Fair enough.

It is important that this not devolve into an anti-government rally based on unsubstantiated fears of “Big Brother.”

All Missourians have a vested interest in the future of our rivers and park lands. If we expect to have a say in that future, we should also be expected to have well-reasoned arguments for our positions. We should also expect to have ideas for how those positions could be implemented.

We encourage everyone who is passionate about these rivers and their uses to bring that passion to the table - and set aside any anti-government paranoia.

We also encourage the government to be transparent about its intentions and to be genuinely open to local input.

If Kinder is right that Missouri can do a better job than the feds, we should prove it by stepping up as citizens to seriously consider the future of our beautiful Ozarks.


St. Joseph News-Press, Jan. 12

KCP&L; projects promising:

Utilities are expected to operate in the public’s interest, but whether they always do is a subject for much public debate.

Sometimes a utility’s profit motives are suspect, as in cases where rate requests seem both too frequent and excessive. Other times, it is not motives but actions that draw criticism, such as when a utility decides to make long-term improvements and wants current ratepayers to pay for these long before they come online.

This past week’s news from Kansas City Power & Light appears, on the surface, to not warrant criticism on either of these two critical points.

As reported, KCP&L; intends to expand access to a major energy-efficiency program that gives rebates and credits to customers who buy more-efficient appliances and lighting, recycle older appliances and replace older heating and cooling systems. This expansion will affect a large number of Kansas City area customers who had been shut out of this program.

The other big step, and the one of greatest interest locally, is the utility’s plan to buy 400 megawatts of power from two new wind turbine projects, including one to be built in Holt County, Mo. This step forward will boost the utility’s wind energy commitments by more than 40 percent and put its total wind portfolio at 936 megawatts of power.

The two wind projects - the second is in Coffey County, Kan. - are expected to be built by other companies, who in turn will sell power to KCP&L; under 20-year agreements. No rate increase is associated with the project announcements and KCP&L; says it has no plan for rate increases in the next two years.

That last point is a big one for ratepayers in the northern district that formerly operated as St. Joseph Light and Power and then as Aquila. These customers rightly feel like they have been battered over the past decade by rate increases needed for infrastructure improvements, including the expensive Iatan II coal-fired plant.

KCP&L; spokeswoman Katie McDonald notes all of the projects announced last week will contribute to keeping costs and rates about $1 billion lower over the next 20 years than they would have been otherwise. About $600 million of this is attributed to savings due to wind power that reduces the need to use other fuels.

Northwest Missouri has been welcoming of environmentally friendly wind power projects for years. Now, the region’s largest utility is making a substantial and long-term investment in this resource that is so available right here in its back yard.

Like any ratepayer, we must reserve judgment on how this resource development ultimately is managed and paid for. But for now, we are hopeful.


The Joplin Globe, Jan. 13

Tenacious McCaskill:

Kudos to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., for her unwavering criticism of a three-star general’s callous handling of two sexual assault cases.

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, retired Wednesday after weeks of condemnation by McCaskill and advocacy groups for his insensitivity to rape allegations.

McCaskill is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The latest case involves an Air Force staff sergeant who reported that a subordinate raped her after an evening spent drinking and dancing at a club. The accused airman claimed the sergeant consented. The case hearing officer recommended against proceeding to court-martial in the case, and Franklin agreed.

In a second high-profile case, Franklin overturned last spring the jury conviction and sentence of a fighter pilot charged with rape. Franklin’s decision prompted an outcry from McCaskill, who said he was protecting one of his men.

McCaskill grilled military leaders last year in several Senate hearings and introduced legislation that has since been passed into law that curtails the authority of military commanders to dismiss jury convictions against sex offenders.

Franklin acknowledged that he had become a “distraction” for the Air Force for his controversial decisions not to court-martial the accused rapists. In a prepared statement, Franklin said he was ending his 37-year military career because his judgment had been “questioned publicly regarding my decisions as a general court-martial convening authority.”

“Lt. Gen. Franklin’s decision to resign is the right one,” McCaskill said. “His handling of sexual assault cases is the best possible illustration of why civilian review, elimination of commanders’ ability to overturn convictions and so many other protections are included in our recent defense bill.”

There is an ongoing problem with sexual assault in the U.S. military. According to a 2011 Newsweek report, women are more likely to be assaulted by a fellow soldier than killed in combat. The Department of Defense estimates there are about 19,000 sexual assaults in the military each year, but according to the latest Pentagon statistics (2013), only 1,108 troops filed for an investigation. And during that period, only 575 cases were processed.

When the Franklin case first came to light, McCaskill said, “It is clear that Lt. Gen. Franklin should not be allowed to fulfill the responsibilities of military command because he has repeatedly shown he lacks sound judgment and respect for the responsibilities held by military commanders to protect those under their authority.”

Hats off to Sen. McCaskill for her dogged determination. We can only hope that the military will do the right thing in future sexual assault cases.


Jefferson City News Tribune, Jan. 12

Sustaining civility in government:

Civility and cooperation may be attainable, but are they sustainable?

The question applies to various aspects of human interaction and endeavor, but it was addressed to and by government leaders last week.

The occasion was the opening week of the legislative session and, more specifically, the annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast.

Featured speaker Hal Donaldson called on people to participate in a Year of Civility and Cooperation. Donaldson is a co-founder and chief executive officer of Convoy of Hope, a Springfield-based humanitarian aid organization that delivers supplies in the aftermath of disasters.

“Today,” he said, “as we consider the uncertainties of life and all the things that make us feel anxious, and we look at the challenges that are facing or nation and the world, we can throw up our hands and accept defeat or we can press on together and make 2014 our defining moment.”

Donaldson focuses on three principles about “loving your neighbor.” They are: moving beyond sentiment to action; cooperating to advance a shared vision; and choosing a life of generosity so others may enjoy a life of opportunity.

Gov. Jay Nixon addressed those themes and their application to government. He acknowledged disagreement and debate are inherent in governing, but added: “It is vital that all of us act in a spirit of fellowship, that does not question each other’s sincerity in wanting to do what is right.”

He also discussed the power of prayer and faith. “You can’t do this job alone,” the governor said. “You can’t make decisions if you’re not calling on a higher power.”

In the spirit of civility and cooperation, we urge governing officials to focus on issues, not people.

No one in government is trying to make things worse for Missourians; officials simply have differing opinions and proposals on how to make things better. We encourage officials to try to see things through differing, or opposing, points of view.

The practice requires replacing ego with empathy, but the result is understanding.

Disagreement may be an integral part of politics, but it can be practiced without being disagreeable.

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