- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Kansas City Star, July 16

Missouri launches a mean-spirited, foolish attack on immigrant college students

Young people across Missouri are receiving a harsh lesson about their state’s mean-spirited General Assembly.

It comes in the form of letters from public colleges and universities, notifying students that because of language slipped into a budget bill, they are no longer eligible for in-state tuition. For some, that means college costs have at least doubled.

These are immigrant students who came to the United States as children without the proper documents. Thanks to 2012 action by President Barack Obama, they can remain in the country under “deferred action” status.

In Missouri, that status offered a way around a policy that prevented state-funded colleges and universities from granting in-state tuition to students who had an “unlawful presence” here.

But this year, lawmakers changed the language to “unlawful immigration status.” Colleges interpret that to exclude the students from in-state tuition.

About 1,200 young people in Missouri have obtained deferred action status, although not all of them attend college.

A University of Missouri spokesman said 20 to 30 affected students are believed to attend the system’s four campuses. Fourteen attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and 20 more students are enrolled for the fall semester.

At UMKC, out-of-state students pay $438.70 more per credit hour. So a student who took 12 credit hours in a semester would see tuition rise by $5,264.

The university is seeking private funding to close the gap, a UMKC spokesman said. The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, which has two affected students, is also planning to use private funds.

The schools are doing the right thing, but the legislature’s policy is immoral and foolish.

Lawmakers said they were taking a stand against illegal immigration. But pricing kids out of college isn’t going to stem illegal immigration one bit. And the affected young people aren’t going anywhere. They’ll just be less educated and less prepared to contribute to the state’s economy.

You don’t even need a college degree to figure out how stupid the Missouri legislature was to rewrite this rule.


Springfield News-Leader, July 18

Proposed bill would streamline, enhance city’s nuisance property laws

Many Springfield residents are fed up with neighboring properties sprouting tall weeds, abandoned vehicles and an abundance of trash, among other things, coupled with unresponsive owners or tenants who allow the problems to fester.

Again and again, the problem of chronic nuisance properties was raised as a top concern during a series of nine listening sessions conducted earlier this year by city staff. Trash, followed by overgrown yards, are the two most common complaints filed with the city.

The current lengthy city code addressing nuisance problems is so vague in places it invites litigation, in addition to including a number of errors and requirements that go beyond the state’s due process laws, costing taxpayers money and slowing the abatement process.

The city is working to fix that with a new, more clearly written code. It would better align with state law, putting the burden for compliance on property owners, and add more bite to enforcement tools.

We support the efforts by city leaders to create a stronger law that streamlines notification regulations and reduces delays in taking action.

The proposal also shows northwest neighborhood groups the city is working to address their concerns - an important show of faith. Many neighborhood groups spoke in favor of the bill, sponsored by Zone 1 Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson, when it was introduced for a first reading July 13 at the City Council meeting.

The state holds property owners responsible for handling nuisances. But current city code “entangles” the city and inspectors in the landlord-tenant relationship when attempting to abate a nuisance, according to the city. In the new proposal, only property owners will be notified by mail (U.S. certified, FedEx, UPS or similar carrier), or in person, and by a notice posted at the property. They have 15 business days to respond or begin improving conditions.

One important new element: The proposal also removes the current requirement calling for a hearing every time the city seeks authority to take care of a nuisance, for instance mowing tall weeds, or removing trash such as the roof-high stacks of tires in a recent case. If there’s been no response after 15 business days, the city can step in. Although hearings can still be requested by a property owner, the new ordinance should speed up response time in many more cases.

Property owners will be charged for costs of abatement through property tax assessments or a special tax bill. In May, City Council also passed an ordinance related to tall grass and weeds that added fines of $250 and $500 to repeat offenders. That should discourage some noncompliant residents from using the city as their lawn service rather than taking care of a yard themselves.

Chris Straw, the city’s director of building development services, said his department is still analyzing how each piece of the new ordinance would be handled - for instance, who will search databases to determine a property owner’s name and contact information. “That way we are creating a consistent process for each and every case,” he said. “Everybody’s getting the same fair process.”

There could be a few cases when owners can’t be easily found, Straw said, but posting a conspicuous notice at the property would suffice according to state law. “We are going to do everything possible. We go through (Greene County’s) Beacon, we go through CU’s databases as best we can. … We do our due diligence. But we don’t have to go for six months trying to find somebody,” he said.

This bill will give the city a better set of tools to enforce compliance and promote better neighborhoods. We recommend passing this bill.


Southeast Missourian, July 20

1st 50K contest draws international interest

Cape Girardeau’s influence is being felt around the world. A business startup competition called 1ST50K has drawn entrants from 13 countries, each vying for grants of up to $50,000, as well as other awards that come with winning.

Codefi, Traverse Ventures and local partners came together to create 1ST50K to open the door for entrepreneurial hopefuls to pitch their business ideas on what was coined Pitch Day. A local Shark Tank of sorts, the competition allowed those who made it through the multilevel process and became finalists to sell their ideas to a panel of established entrepreneurs and investors. The makeup of the panel is paramount to the competition because one reward for victory is access to successful business owners. That access is perhaps even more vital to a successful business launch than money. Cash, after all, is quickly spent, and once withdrawn, is gone. Wisdom deposited, on the other hand, has long-lasting.

Codefi co-founder, Dr. James Stapleton, himself an entrepreneur, as well as a competition committee member, said, “Sometimes it’s easier to find capital than it is to find people who can really help you.” He added, “We assembled people who have experience in a lot of different industries and have been very successful.”

In addition to the 13 countries represented, 23 U.S. states were also represented in the competition. According to a recent Southeast Missourian article, a plethora of industries were in the running for new businesses, including the health care, agriculture and technology industries.

We applaud the vision of 1ST50K’s creators, who see what such an opportunity provides. Not only does it allow a feeling of accomplishment in those who try, but it also ushers in small businesses, which are vital to the economy. Every hand up — from grants to access to professional advice and mentorship — will increase the likelihood of success.

We look forward to finding out more about the winner, and seeing how this contest helps shape the landscape for the future.


St. Joseph News-Press, July 29

To think that interest in public swimming pools has waned and never will return is to think a disturbing thought.

We hope this is not the case. For if it is, we must consider what is lost:

In a time when our lack of exercise is lamented, pools still offer one of the best ways to pursue a vigorous activity that is good for every joint in the body and also is great fun.

In the same vein, we must reflect on those pool experiences - especially for younger people - that started out as play and led to real success in learning how to swim, how to compete and excel, and how to appreciate all manner of water sports as healthy recreation.

There also is the point to be made about water safety: Who among us feels safer reaching adulthood without learning how to swim and feeling confident around water?

Finally, so many of us fondly recall growing-up years spent around the pool, complete with those lasting bonds of friendship that can be formed there.

The past couple of years have put pool supporters on the defensive. First, the YWCA pool was shuttered, sold and then filled in. Then Missouri Western State University spent months in study before deciding to keep its pool open even in the face of low usage and high costs. And now this week, the city of St. Joseph will ask the public to share thoughts on the future of its aquatics program, including the three pools.

Our thoughts on this latter issue have shifted.

For sure, the city could have done more to promote, develop and encourage use of our public pools. The difficulty in finding lifeguards required a better plan. That said, there is no disputing attendance numbers had dwindled even before the Hyde Pool was closed and the Krug Pool hours were cut. The public must own a big part of this problem, and participate in shaping where we go next.

We encourage both pool supporters and boosters of our North End and South Side neighborhoods to turn out in force this week. Even if you don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other, the public forums on the pools should provide valuable information about the status of our aquatics programs and possibilities for improving them.

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