What they're saying…

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Missouri newspapers:

Feb. 5

The Examiner, on stopping meth usage:

State lawmakers are considering changes to make Missouri's meth laws tougher. They're on the right track.

Meth has been a scourge for years. Local police and the Sheriff's Department have done a good deal of hard work to send meth makers to prison. That work has paid off as well as can be expected -- restricting access to pseudoephedrine also has helped -- but the drug has a strong hold on the people who use it, and its use often leads directly to violent actions that harm innocent people.

One suggested change is defining the presence of the drug in a house where there are children as an ''element'' of child abuse or neglect. That idea makes sense.

Another proposal is to require medical treatment for meth users. Although we should always be leery about the government mandating medical treatment, this idea has precedents and is worth serious consideration.

Education is vital, too. Some suggest using the Montana Meth Project model, which involves a saturation level of advertising -- much of which is graphic. This is way past ''Just Say No.'' The ads are as haunting as they are frightening. It's said to have worked well in Montana, so let's take a look at it here.

Feb. 4

The Kansas City Star, on state's homicide rate:

Missouri had the highest homicide rate for African-Americans of any state in 2005: six times the nation's homicide rate and 10 times the rate for white people. The prior year, using 2004 FBI data, Missouri ranked fifth in black deaths.

The rankings will likely continue to fluctuate. But one thing is clear: Society must work to reduce this tragedy. A homicide rate of almost 33 deaths per 100,000 people is appalling. Kansas City accounted for 83 of the dead in the 2005 statistics.

Once again, black leaders noted the intricate layers of hopelessness formed by poverty, poor education and the resulting unemployment and underemployment. The observations are astute and should be heeded by anyone who can affect these young lives.

Victims often inch their way toward an early death, maybe beginning with trouble in school or hanging around people warped by a violent street mentality. Or maybe a juvenile had early brushes with police for a petty crime.

But a critical hurdle for many young men is not of their own doing. It is the lack of a relevant father figure in their lives.

This is not a slap to the many dedicated single mothers. Nor does it denigrate the many solid programs that attempt to fill this void.

But the lack of a positive male role model is a vast wound, not easily repaired. Young boys need such models to have the best chance at growing into young men -- not becoming young murder victims.

In addition to increasing expectations for men to be involved with their children, society must not grow numb to the violent deaths. It is too easy for some to tune out these killings because the circumstances are so sadly repetitive.

Improving the future for young black men requires more than police vigilance. Churches, social service agencies, families and volunteer programs must continue to step in to help.

Feb. 4

Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri winning despite suspended players:

Even in the best of times, hardly anyone would have bet on the Mizzou basketball team to beat the high-flying Kansas State Wildcats.

With two key players out on suspension, the odds seemed nil.

But the Tigers rose to the occasion, dishing a legitimate beating to the team from Manhattan, Kan., that was coming off a stunning victory of its own against the other team from Kansas. ...

The story behind the story remains Coach Mike Anderson's disciplining of his five players who violated team rules by staying out late and getting into a fight at the notorious Athena bar.

The case of the main perpetrator, Stefhon Hannah, is well settled. His jaw was broken, requiring a four- to six-week layoff that surely will end the senior's career at the University of Missouri.

In dealing with the other four, Anderson is fine-tuning his ''zero tolerance'' policy.

Right after the Athena brawl, it was easy for outsiders to say Anderson should throw the book, implying nothing would be too harsh including permanent suspension.

But at his first public opportunity Anderson said, ''Wait a minute. These are not thugs, they are kids.'' He explained the need for mentors to give lessons, meaning punishment should be clearly felt but coaching should be intensified as well.

So the coach reinstated two of the players for the K-State game, leaving on the bench two others who had more complicated records.

Earlier, most fans were willing to just round 'em up and ship 'em out, but now most everyone can agree Anderson's sort of fine-tuning is in order.

The point of this rambling is to say Coach Anderson seems to have the right touch with his disciplinary actions, involving toughness but not the death penalty for relatively minor infractions. If the K-State game is any indication, tribulation might unexpectedly help mold the young men into a better team.

Feb. 2

St. Joseph News-Press, on Northwest Missouri State University's impact:

Northwest Missouri State University and the fine city of Maryville indelibly are intertwined.

Oh, you can see where one physically starts and the other one ends. But the community's economy, culture and pride are one and the same. That's as it should be.

Now, Northwest officials have come up with a grand plan that might just test the bonds of this special partnership.

The Northwest Foundation recently purchased nearly 70 acres of pasture opposite the west side of campus to potentially become the new home of ''Village at Northwest.''

Two Northwest officials presented the general concept at a recent Board of Regents meeting. The concept is a Zona Rosa-like community of commingled residents and business retailers. Several universities throughout the U.S. have succeeded in building similar communities with good results, the officials said.

Penn State pulled in $27 million from a similar community model, according to Northwest President Dr. Dean Hubbard.

The foundation supports the welfare, goals and programs of Northwest, but is separate from the university. The university board gave the foundation approval to continue to develop the project. This is an important first step.

The next important step is for the foundation to make every effort to keep the people of Maryville involved in the process. We believe this unique, new village can help both the university and the community.

But someone who owns a business that has served the university staff and students for decades may be less convinced.

The university's vision is strong and clear. The job now is to sell that vision to the community.