What they're saying…

Monday, March 3, 2008

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Missouri newspapers:

Feb. 25

Springfield News-Leader, on campaign rules:

Have Missouri lawmakers no shame?

Recently the Republican-led Senate pushed through a campaign finance bill that accomplishes two things.

First, it smacks Missouri voters in the face and makes it clear they no longer matter to state leaders.

Second, it puts a sign on the Capitol that says, simply: ''Open for business, deposit cash here.''

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Shields, once again tosses out the campaign finance limits previously approved by voters and sustained by the state Supreme Court and returns us to the early days of the 2007 rules when elected officials can take any amount they want from donors.

You want out-of-state megabucks deciding who the next governor of Missouri is? You got it.

What makes the bill so offensive is the continued argument by Shields and others that this is a bill about transparency in government. It most certainly is not.

There is nothing reasonable about the way Missouri Republicans are debating the issue of raising unlimited cash. If they were serious about the issue, they'd pass a bill that didn't change the rules this year, but indeed waited until after the already under way 2008 elections were over.

That won't happen, though, because this debate is purely about 2008. Mostly, it's about giving the Republican candidate for governor, either Kenny Hulshof or Sarah Steelman, the cash to compete with Democrat Jay Nixon.

We think Missouri voters of both parties can see right through this joke of a bill. ...

It's a sham. It's a travesty. It's a slap to the voters of Missouri.

We doubt the House will stop this madness, and thus, by the time voters cast ballots in November for governor and other offices, they will be electing politicians who have played under at least three different sets of rules this year.

The only thing that's transparent here is the intent of political candidates wanting to fill their pockets with cash from the highest bidder.


Feb. 24

Jefferson City News-Tribune, on Sunshine law

Missouri's Sunshine Law is a laudable concept that deserves to be practiced universally.

But, it isn't.

The intent of the law is to require government to conduct the public's business in public view.

Violations of the Sunshine Law are not uncommon.

A state lawmaker has introduced a proposal that would require all public officials in the state to receive special training about the open meetings and open records provisions of the Sunshine Law.

The proposal is commendable. The proverbial devil is in the details of how to provide training to tens of thousands of public officials in Missouri.

The Sunshine Law applies not only to members of the state Legislature, but to city councils, village boards of trustees, county commissions, public boards of education, library boards, as well as boards of directors of public ambulance districts, fire districts and water supply districts. ...

Violations of the Sunshine Law appear to occur more frequently because of ignorance rather than intent. Consequently, training for public officials would serve a useful public purpose.

A critical question is whether the state has the money and/or resources to implement the training. Under the legislative proposal, the Missouri attorney general's office would conduct the training. That office now does so upon request. ...

If the attorney general's office created a comprehensive training manual, we believe the respective attorneys representing the various governmental bodies could conduct the training.

Such a system might not cover every governmental body, but it would go a long way toward helping public officials become knowledgeable about the Sunshine Law.

Conducting public business in public view is vital. We encourage state legislators to overcome obstacles and approve legislation to teach public officials about the law that governs their behavior.

Feb. 24

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on civil rights petition:

Over the next 10 weeks at supermarkets, shopping malls and other public places, Missourians of voting age will be accosted by an army of clipboard-wielding activists seeking signatures on at least 12 initiative petitions, maybe more.

Each of them is aimed at placing a measure on the November ballot that would change state law, either by amending the state constitution or by directly enacting a new state statute.

To a greater or lesser degree, most of the 12 measures approved for circulation so far are flawed.

We are devoting special attention to Measure 009, which is distinguished by an extraordinarily deceptive title. Indeed, when a guy with a clipboard walks up to you at the supermarket and asks you to sign ''the civil rights'' petition, you'd probably be inclined to do so; most everyone is in favor of civil rights.

But the effect of this measure would be to roll back employment and education programs that took years of true civil rights struggle to achieve. And it would do so in cynical, dishonest fashion.

But because it has a well-funded, out-of-state organization behind it, it has a good chance of actually making it onto the ballot.

Measure 009, a.k.a. the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, would ''ban state and local government affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment in public contracting, employment or education based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin unless such programs are necessary to establish or maintain eligibility for federal funding or to comply with an existing court order.''

The drive for Measure 009 in Missouri is part of a five-state effort this year funded by the American Civil Rights Institute of Sacramento, Calif., an anti-affirmative-action group co-founded in 1996 by California businessman Ward Connerly.

Even those who believe affirmative action programs are unnecessary should loathe this cynical, cowardly attempt to ban them. It involves distorting the true meaning of words and demeaning the importance the civil rights movement for which people gave their lives. ...

Any straightforward discussion of the merits of affirmative action programs would laugh Connerly's civil-wrongs arguments out of the state.

That's why he has to mask his plan's true aim and sneak it through the back door. Missourians should slam it on him.

Feb. 23

The Examiner, on Hunt being honored:

The Missouri Capitol is more than the center of the state's government.

The building is a living reminder of what the state has been and is today.

It houses the Missouri State Museum, and on its walls are printed many expressions of the state's ideals, including the state motto, Salus populi supreme lex esto (''Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law'').

On the second floor, a collection of bronze busts makes up the Hall of Famous Missourians. About 30 people are honored, from Blackjack Pershing, Omar Bradley and Harry Truman to Walt Disney, Thomas Hart Benton and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Recently, Lamar Hunt was added. It's an overdue selection.

Hunt, who died in 2006, was the founding owner of the Kansas City Chiefs. He started the team in Dallas in 1960 and moved it here in 1963.

That has given football fans years of good memories and helped cement Kansas City's identity as a major league city. Ewing Kauffman, founding owner of the Royals, also is in the Hall of Famous Missourians. Both Hunt and Kauffman made contributions to the area beyond the playing field as well.