- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Kansas City Star, Aug. 26

End the economic border war that’s wasting KC-area taxpayers’ dollars:

Missouri state Sen. Ryan Silvey sounds prepared for battle because the economic development border war is on the verge of getting even nastier in the Kansas City area.

“I think my colleagues are ready to strike,” the Kansas City Republican said in an interview this week, days before a proposed agreement between Missouri and Kansas to curb the poaching of jobs from each other ran out Sunday.

Here we go again.

For years, governments on both sides of the state line have offered tax breaks to private companies, trying to woo them to set up shop in either Kansas or Missouri. Businesses have hopped the state line but avoided paying their full share of taxes to support public services in their new communities.

Economic development stoked by taxpayer incentives is nothing new in this region, but the border war has had a significant downside: It has not created anything close to enough new employment to justify the public subsidies.

It also has distracted local economic development officials from more productive duties of getting new businesses to come to the Kansas City area.

Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation, has helped track the dismal job numbers for years. As he reiterated in an interview this week, “It is a zero-sum game.”

According to Hall’s figures, Kansas has gained a few hundred more jobs than Missouri has in this back-and-forth deal, but the practice is costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars on both sides of the state line.

Local economic development officials and politicians such as Kansas City Mayor Sly James often have decried the negative effects of the border war, especially the excessive cost to taxpayers.

No one is against competition and promoting a city or state’s amenities, goes this line of thinking. But lavishing tax dollars on private companies that are merely moving only a few blocks in some cases doesn’t do much for the metropolitan area.

The latest head-shaking event in this battle occurred in early August.

The Kansas Department of Commerce sent out a letter to some businesses in Kansas City, trying to recruit them. As The Star reported, the agency’s mailing absurdly included the offices of the Downtown Council of Kansas City, specifically set up to market and promote downtown.

Silvey said he and some of his colleagues were irritated by the letter, saying it was viewed “as a pretty aggressive act.”

Hall said it was a “step-up of the game.”

Over in Kansas, even some local economic development officials were appalled. They saw it as a naive bid by the Commerce Department to ramp up the fight with Missouri at a very inopportune time. State officials downplayed the letter as just a matter of making sure the word was getting out about what Kansas could offer to businesses in the Show-Me State.

In the past, The Star has supported an essential cease-fire in the border war. Logically, both Kansas and Missouri should refuse to award state tax breaks to companies that are merely moving across the state line while not adding significant numbers of jobs to the metropolitan area.

After years of trying, Missouri in 2014 passed a bill that moved in that direction. Gov. Jay Nixon and the General Assembly gave Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback until Aug. 28, 2016, to agree.

Brownback earlier this year finally responded, going along with much of the Missouri offer but adding caveats that would have allowed public incentives in certain cases.

The General Assembly rebuffed Brownback’s approach as not going far enough.

Silvey this week said that, starting when the General Assembly comes back in January, Missouri will look at “ramping up our responses.”

That could include opening a recruitment office in Kansas City so the Missouri Department of Economic Development could try to poach businesses from the Sunflower State. That sounds draconian.

As even many Kansas-side officials acknowledge, that state’s huge budget problems could restrain Brownback and the Legislature from competing with an even more aggressive bid by Missouri to steal businesses.

However, it makes no financial sense for Missouri taxpayers to take this wasteful route. And who knows? Brownback and his colleagues could still keep giving away the state’s future tax base in a desperate bid to hang on to jobs.

Behind the scenes, local economic development officials who best know this subject should continue to try to broker a fair deal they can bring to elected leaders in early 2017 in both states.

A new governor in Missouri, along with a more moderate Legislature in Topeka, could and should be willing to once and for all end this border war.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 28

Judge gives governor a pass on defense duty. Too bad:

It’s probably for the best that Cole County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Joyce decided last week that Gov. Jay Nixon doesn’t have to accept that appointment to defend an indigent client accused of assault. After all, the governor is a busy man who doesn’t have the time to prepare an adequate defense.

Lack of time for busy attorneys is the exact problem Michael Barrett, the director of the Missouri Public Defender System, was getting at this month when he appointed Nixon to the case. Barrett cited a provision in state law clearly stating that the director may “delegate the legal representation of any person to any member of the state bar of Missouri.”

But a few paragraphs later, the law gives that privilege to circuit court judges. The section that Barrett cited has rarely, if ever, been used. The section that Joyce cited is frequently used.

Nixon snippily responded to Joyce’s decision by accusing Barrett of “engaging in publicity stunts that waste taxpayer resources.” The governor said that during his time in office, the Public Defender’s Office has seen a 15 percent increase in funding and a nearly 5 percent increase in staffing.

But just last month, responding to a lawsuit that Barrett filed against Nixon, Scott Holste, the governor’s top spokesman, told the Jefferson City News-Tribune that “over the past seven fiscal years (Nixon’s time in office), expenditures for the Office of Public Defender have increased by more than 9 percent.”

So in July it was 9 percent. In August it’s 15 percent. Whatever, it’s not keeping up with inflation or the caseload increase (12 percent this year alone). It’s not enough to keep lawyers from quitting and thus piling more cases on those left behind.

It’s been this way for years, despite multiple studies by the state and federal bar associations and other outside entities warning of a problem. Missouri ranks 49th among the states in per capita spending on indigent defense.

To its credit, the Republican-dominated Legislature has recognized the problem. As Barrett noted when he filed his lawsuit last month, “When lawmakers provided resources in the 2014-15 fiscal year, the governor withheld the funding, then cut MSPD’s budget by $3.47 million in FY 2016. Now again, in FY 2017, the governor has deprived MSPD of the $3.5 million approved by the Legislature for caseload relief.”

Indigent defense may be a constitutional right, but it’s never been a priority for this Democratic governor. By the time Barrett’s lawsuit gets heard, Nixon will be out of office. The obligation of providing adequate representation to poor people accused of serious crimes will still be a problem. But it won’t be Nixon’s problem unless - as we dearly hope - some judge appoints him to a case.


Springfield News-Leader, Aug. 27

Integrity needed in voting process:

Republicans and Democrats in Missouri have been fighting over the requirement of having a photo ID for a decade now. They’ve been fighting so long that they’ve lost sight of the bigger issue - can citizens trust that there is honesty and integrity in the voting process?

Republicans say there isn’t, but can’t point to data that show what and where any real problems exist. Democrats cite data that say the process works just fine but seem too willing to dismiss the concerns of those who fear it could be easily corrupted.

Does Missouri need a law requiring a photo ID to vote?

We don’t know, and we won’t until lawmakers commit to a nonpartisan study of voting in Missouri.

Financial institutions, police and fire departments, and city emergency agencies to name a few regularly undergo “stress tests” that provide hard data on any cracks that might exist in crucial systems.

If we can ensure the integrity of many of our institutions through objective testing, surely we can do the same to help ensure that our voting system is free of fraud.

Some will question why more study is needed when data already exist that shows voter fraud to be rare.

It’s because the data that exist doesn’t reassure those who fear the system can still be rigged.

Those folks, however, should insist on better data rather than imposing a law might actually be worthless in the quest to ensure voting integrity.

Some might also say that in the absence of data, why risk even a little fraud? There’s no harm is requiring photo IDs, so why not go ahead and pass the law?

Just as Republicans don’t trust existing data that shows fraud is rare, Democrats don’t trust Republican assurances that the restrictions won’t keep some people from voting.

What both sides should be after is integrity in the voting process. To achieve that integrity, Missouri needs to both limit fraud and empower voters.

Unfortunately, the currently proposed photo ID requirement accomplishes neither of those things.


Joplin Globe, Aug. 29

Head off the damage:

Athletes of all ages have been told by a parent, a coach or a teammate to “walk it off” after getting hurt.

“Be tough.” ”Fight through the pain.” ”Suck it up.” They are the cliches of Sports 101.

We’re sure Colin Bado heard them all. The former Missouri Southern State University football standout sustained his first head injury at the age of 9 as a young gymnast. The blows continued, but so did the successes.

For parents, coaches and athletes, today’s Page 1 story detailing the brain injuries sustained by Bado is a must read. The potential long-term effects of head injuries culminated in depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts by Bado.

Fortunately he found the answers behind his problems. It wasn’t him. It was an erosion of the smooth surface of his brain that was caused by repetitive brain trauma. It was the potential precursor to the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Just as he once trained his body, he now gives his brain extra workouts hoping the extra stimulation will be enough.

Bado’s seat on the sidelines may now be one of his most important roles. He’s a high school football coach and he’s there because he wants to preserve what’s good about the game, change attitudes and open dialogue between coaches and players.

It’s a conversation, in our view, that must start at home. If a child is hurting physically or mentally, he or she must be encouraged to talk about it. Today’s story by Jordan Larimore should provide a catalyst for those conversations.

Athletic competitions will never be 100 percent injury free. Nor do we think parents should pull their child out of the game without a candid conversation with the young player.

As your son or daughter’s biggest fan, you are there to do more than cheer him or her on. Listen, observe and know the signs of head injuries.

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