Letter to the Editor

What they're saying

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Missouri:

Jan. 3

The Joplin Globe on Renewable Environmental Solutions:

When Renewable Environmental Solutions opened its Carthage plant designed to convert poultry byproducts into fuel oil, virtually everyone was pleased. This was an enterprise using cutting-edge technology. RES employed 55 people and growth seemed likely.

Unfortunately, things got stinky instead. After being cited six times for odors that fouled the air for neighbors and a good part of the community, RES has been ordered to shut down for at least 60 days while the company and the Department of Natural Resources try to resolve the smell problem.

State action to suspend the state's air-discharge permit came at the direction of Gov. Matt Blunt. We applaud Blunt's decision. There simply had been too many complaints, some coming as late as Dec. 27, from Carthage residents concerning the odor, which one resident described as "something dead."

RES had been working to find a way to reduce and eliminate the smell, but so far has been unsuccessful. The company is installing new equipment that might resolve the odor issue. But before production can begin again, RES must take, under the DNR order, "any and all steps necessary to ensure the odors from operating the facility will not result in the emission of odors at a level such as to cause a clear and present danger to the public welfare."

Surely there is a solution that can make this new technology, which has so much promise for the nation's energy future, not just tolerable, but a good neighbor. But the fact is that six DNR citations in a year plus all those complaints by residents made Blunt's decision necessary. The people of Carthage have suffered with the smell long enough.

Jan. 3

The Hannibal Courier-Post on oversight of nursing homes:

Are Missouri's developmentally disabled at risk? Last month State Auditor Claire McCaskill called for more stringent state regulation of private group homes for their mental health clients.

McCaskill's concern was raised after an audit team, checking on the Springfield Regional Center's oversight of such homes, found broken furniture, prescription drugs in an unlocked refrigerator and a resident with severe "diaper rash" at a group home in Springfield, Mo.

After being advised by members of the audit team of what they had seen at that group home, McCaskill called on the Legislature to "enact a sweeping piece of reform legislation that provides mandatory oversight and inspections by people who do not work in these homes."

McCaskill noted that three-fourths of the investigations conducted in such private group homes are done by people who also work in the same facility. "That's not how you get to the bottom of it," said the state auditor. We agree.

We call upon the Legislature ... to take this matter under consideration. These special needs residents of our state obviously need proper care. To help ensure that they receive adequate care we believe that it is important that unbiased individuals be involved in any investigations regarding that care.

Jan. 2

The Kansas City Star on Russia:

When the Soviet Union fell, many assumed Russia would join the fold of democratic nations. It did -- but only briefly. Now it is moving rapidly toward something else.

The latest sign is the resignation of a key economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin.

Andrei Illarionov, the first member of Putin's cabinet to leave in protest, said he had worked hard to increase Russia's economic freedom. But now, he said, the country is no longer free and democratic.

Russia instead conforms to a "corporatist" model, Illarionov said, characterized by heavy-handed state control over major corporations and a disturbing habit of muzzling critics.

He stepped down the same day the upper house of Parliament approved a bill strictly curbing the activities of nongovernmental organizations -- another sign of Moscow's drift from popular rule.

Illarionov's departure had been expected; he was already a vocal critic of Putin's administration. After the Kremlin forced the oil giant Yukos to sell its primary asset, Illarionov publicly branded the transaction a "swindle."

Up to a third of Russia's formerly private oil-and-gas sector is now under de facto government control. The Kremlin is using oil to knit new strategic relationships, especially in Asia and notably with China.

These trends are worrisome and bear close watching by Americans and officials in Washington. President Bush famously said he had seen Putin's "soul." It's evident now there was a lot more than met Bush's eye.

Jan. 2

St. Joseph News-Press on a tax break for farmers:

They put everything they've got on the line to earn a living. The risks are very high. Many fail. But the ones who succeed win for the whole state of Missouri.

If the state can give them some help with a tax break, what's to debate? Well, there's plenty to talk about when lawmakers get back to Jefferson City this week.

First, let's make it clear that we are not talking about professional athletes and millionaire owners who will be back this session looking for the state's help to keep professional teams in Kansas City. There will be plenty of debate on this topic, too. Our hunch is that the state will come across with the money in the end.

Today we are talking about the Missouri farmer. The State Tax Commission voted recently to recommend that the Missouri Legislature keep farmland productivity values for 2007 and 2008 at their current levels. The values are used to determine the property tax that farmers pay on crop and pastureland.

It is the right recommendation. As the commission chairman pointed out, the economy is rough and farmers work on "very, very thin margins."

But State Sen. David Klindt believes the real debate on this topic should focus on how the state defines the value of farmland. The present formula, used by the University of Missouri on behalf of the Tax Commission, relies heavily on the price for which a piece of farmland could be rented. Mr. Klindt said cash rents don't accurately reflect the productivity of that land.

And the Bethany Republican promises to push to put money in the next state budget to revamp the formula. Farmers do work as hard for Missouri as any professional athlete. The General Assembly owes the Missouri farmer a fair formula for setting productivity values.