- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

St. Joseph News-Press, Sept. 22

So long to wind project:

A major proposed project to produce wind energy from towers erected in Holt County, Mo., has come to a sudden halt, and there are lots of folks to thank for that.

Certainly, some in the region will see this as a missed opportunity. After all the developer, Element Power of Portland, Ore., had proposed to erect around 100 wind turbines on 30,000 acres of leased private land.

The company said the project, known as Mill Creek, would require 300 workers during construction and create 12 to 14 permanent jobs. Individual landowners stood to gain for every tower on their property.

This loomed as a substantial boost to an area that has had plenty of economic setbacks, including repeated floods from the Missouri River. But the development also posed unusual risks.

Conservationists rallied to challenge the project as unwise due to the potential for harming some of Holt County’s biggest attributes - its standing as a flight path stopover for thousands of migratory birds and as host to a world-class birding sanctuary, Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

These ecological impacts, in turn, could have dealt a damaging blow to the regional businesses and communities that depend on the influx of refuge visitors and outdoor enthusiasts.

For our part, we always felt uneasy about this proposal but joined with others in wanting to defer to the experts. The problem, however, is government oversight of wind farm developers is limited, meaning expert opinions carry less weight.

In the end, Element Power withdrew the project rather than try to scale back operations to meet conservationists’ compelling arguments. The company said it could comply with requests to minimize the impact to wildlife, including by turning off the turbines during periods of heavy migration, but such steps would reduce the return on its investment.

A number of supporters of wildlife and the refuge argued for this ending - either no turbine project, or one modified to address reasonable concerns. From the Missouri Department of Conservation to the various birding and wildlife advocates who spoke up, there is plenty of credit to be passed around.


Washington Missourian, Sept. 20

Ballot language on early voting proposal:

A Missouri appeals court panel has rewritten the ballot summary for an early voting proposal. The court found that the ballot wording by lawmakers was misleading because it failed to mention the measure is contingent upon funding. That’s a vital requirement that voters should know when voting.

The proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot will ask Missouri voters whether to authorize a no-excuses-needed early voting period for future general elections. The six-day voting period would be limited to business hours on weekdays. Missing from the wording provided by the Legislature was that the change would only occur if the Legislature and governor provide funding for it. That was a major omission. Had the wording remained intact, voters would have believed if approved it was a done deal.

Quite often it is difficult to write ballot language so it is clear to voters. We have heard complaints going way back that sometimes ballot wording was misleading. We recognize that many voters prior to casting a ballot don’t pay much attention to the issue at hand. They don’t have an in-depth look into the issue.

The rewritten ballot summary will include wording that early voting will be permitted only “if the Legislature and the governor appropriate and disburse funds to pay for the increased costs of such voting.”

The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the measure, and asked that early voting be stricken from the ballot. The appeals court rejected that approach. The court said it had the authority to rewrite the wording. The secretary of state has certified it as fit for the ballot as revised. It is Amendment 6.

For voters, the court did the right thing.


The Columbia Tribune, Sept. 22

Common Core:

A group of Missouri conservatives has filed a lawsuit against state funding for a multistate consortium working on Common Core education standards. Their suit alleges the basic falsehood being promoted against Common Core mostly by conservatives, to wit: Common Core will remove local control over education curricula and teaching methods.

Common Core does no such thing. It is designed to set reading, writing and math standards common to all the states but says nothing about how schools and teachers shall achieve the results.

Common Core was originally adopted with little controversy by 48 of the 50 states. (True believers can cheer Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska for being the lone holdouts.) Now, after the localism issue was concocted as criticism against supposed centralized control, red states, including Missouri, are jumping ship.

What a shame. Common Core can address a primary failing of No Child Left Behind - that standards are too weak. Compliance has become a race to mediocrity as states and school districts seek to improve test results by mitigating achievement standards.

Common Core standards are intended to be more demanding and, crucially, common to all districts in the nation. As preliminary indicators arrive, some states and districts are chagrined to learn their schools and students are not doing as well as they thought, so instead of facing reality they rail at the system with the familiar refrain against loss of local control.

Repeat: Common Core does not interfere with local control. It does set better standards of achievement and eliminates interstate meddling with those standards. Are we learning we don’t want serious, and challenging, public education improvement after all?

We have tried anarchy. Now what? We need Common Core in some iteration, but how to get there? Supporters think it can make a big difference if only half the states follow through. Better with everybody on board, but first we’ll have to get past the false front, promoted so much more successfully these days via the Internet.


The Joplin Globe, Sept. 21

It can wait:

It may be the new “new driving while under the influence.” Technically, it’s called “distracted driving.”

You know it as texting and driving.

Consider that in 2011, at least 23 percent of auto collisions also involved cell phones, according to the National Organization for Youth Safety. Texting while driving increases the chances of having an accident by 23 percent, yet 77 percent of our youth are confident that they can safely drive and text at the same time. And they do it.

So, what’s our best offense?

We think it all comes down to just how much we believe the message. In Missouri, it’s against the law to text and drive if you are under 21. We think that law should apply to all ages. How can something that increases your chances of having an accident by 23 percent be OK for any age?

In Oklahoma, it’s against the law for school bus drivers to text and drive. It’s also against the law for a “novice” driver to text and drive. That means if you have a learner’s permit, you have to put the phone down and just wait for the day you have a license in your hand. Then you can have a cellphone as well.

Kansas gets it right. The state bans all drivers from texting and driving via its state laws.

We recommend that Missouri and Oklahoma should do the same.

Yet, that alone is not going to stop most people from sending texts from behind the wheel. It’s a matter of taking personal responsibility. Let’s face it, your children aren’t going to be responsible if they know their parents aren’t.

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